Full disclaimer: This is not an official statement — just a theory based on industry chatter.
In the months it’s been on sale, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport has proven to hit a sweet spot in Ford’s lineup. There’s one curious trim, however, that doesn’t seem to have reaped the good fortunes as the full model sales would have you believe: the off-road-focused Badlands.
The rugged baby brother to the much-hyped Ford Bronco pulled prospective buyers looking for a small crossover with some off-road cred under the Blue Oval’s umbrella, and the automaker says it has successfully wooed buyers away from other brands — namely Jeep — with the sales figures to back it up. So far this year, dealers shifted more than 50,000 Bronco Sports, and Ford’s conquest claims (as noted by the folks over at Ford Authority) cite nearly two-thirds of those sales coming from outside the brand.
According to rumors swirling within the industry, take rate of the Bronco Sport Badlands hasn’t exactly been stellar. It’s been so low, in fact, that Ford is supposedly going to ax the Badlands from the Bronco Sport lineup moving forward. Now, to be clear, that is 100% NOT confirmed by Ford. At this point, we haven’t been able to pin down a primary source close to Ford’s marketing shot callers to further verify what we’ve heard so far.
So why am I bringing it up at all, then? Despite a palpable lack of clarity on the situation, there are some signs that suggest the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands may — and at this point, I need to emphasize may — disappear in the near future.
Dealers don’t seem to be awash in Bronco Sport Badlands on their lots.
Most of you, I’m sure, are familiar with “the trend is your friend”. Ford positioned the Bronco Sport Badlands against Jeep’s popular Trailhawk crossovers, specifically the Renegade and Compass. It’s a smart strategy considering how Ford’s cross-town rival has been able to spin the off-road brand as a sort of rough-and-ready version of what would otherwise be just another crossover. For those who can’t swing a Wrangler for whatever reason, there’s still an option backed up by Jeep’s folkloric off-road reputation.
Despite Ford taking a similar approach though, a cursory search through nationwide dealer listings uncovered an interesting trend. Out of 4,019 listings on listing site CarGurus, only 6% (267 results) of the nationwide results were for the Badlands trim. Contrast that with the lower-spec (and more affordable) Big Bend at 56% (2,252 results) and even the base model at 17% (683 results), and the low take-rate theory appears to hold some water. Mind you, this shows what cars dealers have in their inventory, meaning many buyers could have already taken a Badlands home, or some quantity could still be on order, and Ford hasn’t built them yet.
The Bronco Sport Badlands is a pricey proposition.
On the other hand, the key to dealers’ profits hinges around stocking cars they know people are actually going to buy. To that end, you’ll usually see a sort of bell curve when it comes to shopping by trim level. The meat of dealer inventory lands near the middle of the range, where most people land on their ultimate purpose. In this case, folks may strike a balance between getting some key features in the Big Bend, while avoiding the higher price tags the Outer Banks and Badlands demands. Few First Edition Bronco Sports are available, but those are fully-loaded, limited-run models meant for the most die-hard buyers.
As it stands right now, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is the most expensive trim that’s generally available. Pricing for that model starts at $33,815 before any other options. That makes it nearly $1,000 more expensive than the Jeep Compass Trailhawk and about $2,800 more than the Renegade Trailhawk. The difference may be close enough to pull some Trailhawk buyers away, but dealer inventory and another curious piece of information from Ford’s own site suggest that may not be enough to keep the Badlands trim in the mix. On the configurator page, Ford cites “limited availability” specifically for the Badlands trim:
Cannibalizing Bronco sales?
Another theory we have for why Ford could drop the Bronco Sport Badlands centers around its big brother. The Ford Bronco SUV is almost, almost on the streets in large numbers. At $34,695 to start and an available Sasquatch Package (albeit as a $4,995 option), are many keen off-roaders actually going for the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands? Yes, there is the before-mentioned Trailhawk argument, but folks could be holding out for the full-size Bronco in terms of getting a capable off-roader. That’s not to say the Bronco Sport is bad, by any means — it’s actually remarkably good off the beaten track — but that could be one explanation, if we had a crystal ball to see Ford’s behind-the-scenes product wrangling.
The uptake? If you do want a Bronco Sport Badlands, try to get one now.
At the end of the day, rumors like these really boil down to “who knows”. Until Ford actually confirms or debunks this rumor, we can’t say with certainty that the Bronco Sport Badlands is, without a doubt, going away. With the topsy-turvy state of the industry right now, that “limited availability” may just come down to Ford adjusting its manufacturing priorities, and things will go back to normal in the coming months.
Right now, though, there are some plausible signs we won’t see the Badlands trim on the baby Bronco for 2022. The moral of the story from those voices within the industry, then, is to try and get into a Bronco Sport Badlands while you can if you really want one, because the chance may not be there soon enough.
Ford, for it’s part, will not comment on future products, so we’ll have to wait and see. If Ford does provide any further information, we’ll make sure to update you guys accordingly.