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New Podcast Tracks History Of The Ford Bronco Ahead Of The SUV's Return

Sonari Glinton
Ford
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Sonari Glinton is a former NPR reporter who covered the automotive beat.

The Ford Bronco is coming back. After production stopped almost 25 years ago, the Michigan-based automaker will be putting out the SUV again.

This week, Ford debuted a podcast called Bring Back Bronco: The Untold Story chronicling the history of the car including OJ Simpson’s infamous low-speed car chase in his White Bronco in the 90s.

Sonari Glinton hosts the podcast.

WKAR’s Sophia Saliby spoke to him about the podcast and what he learned about the car in the process.

Interview Highlights

On How The History Of The Bronco Is Connected To The History Of The Country

It starts off with gangbusters in the '60s. It gets hit by the oil crisis in the '70s. The late '70s brings us the rise of the SUV and the suburban van. It has rollover problems in the '80s, OJ Simpson in the '90s, and it closes on the same day as the Detroit train station. [It's] the same day that the Bronco finishes sales, and there is every single random thing about race, about culture [and] about sexism. All those things are somehow connected in the telling the story of a billion-dollar product.

On One Of The Most Interesting Things He Learned While Making The Podcast

The thing that surprised me the most was that the Ford Bronco was drawn by the first black car designer in Detroit who also had a role in the Mustang and the Thunderbird. His name was McKinley Thompson, and literally, it blew my mind to realize that. You can hear the surprise when I realized.

On Why He Thinks Women Should Listen To The Podcast

If this car is going to be successful, it will be a chick car. I don't mean that in a condescending way, but if it's going to be successful, women are going to love it and organically want to be interested in it. The show is thinking about them, and it's not just a bunch of white boys reminiscing about trucks. It's about talking to people who are going to buy it and are interested in storytelling and care about products.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby. Ford’s Bronco is coming back. After production stopped almost 25 years ago, the Michigan-based automaker will be putting out the SUV again.

This week, Ford debuted a podcast called, Bring Back Bronco: The Untold Story, chronicling the history of the car, including, yes, OJ Simpson’s infamous low-speed car chase in his White Bronco in the 90s.

Sonari Glinton hosts the podcast, and our listeners might be familiar with his voice because he used cover the automotive beat for NPR.

Sonari joins me now. Thanks for being here.

Sonari Glinton: It's great to be with you.

Saliby: You say in the trailer for the podcast that the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Ford Bronco is a metaphor for the last 50 years in America. What do you mean by that?

Glinton: One of the things that I love about the Bronco is that it starts off almost as a side hustle for Ford while they were building the Mustang, and it literally tracks with Detroit or the American people, like the rise and fall. So, we see, you know, it starts off with gangbusters in the '60s. It gets hit by the oil crisis in the '70s. The late '70s brings us the rise of the SUV and the suburban van. It has rollover problems in the '80s, OJ Simpson in the '90s, and it closes on the same day as the Detroit train station. [It's] the same day that the Bronco finishes sales, and there is every single random thing about race, about culture [and] about sexism. All those things are somehow connected in the telling the story of a billion-dollar product.

Saliby: Several of your family members worked in the auto industry. Your mother became one of the first female managers at Ford's Chicago plant. You even spent a few summers working for Ford. Did anything you learned there help you tell this story?

Glinton: I was there, in a Ford plant, on the night of the slow speed chase. I was a Ford employee, so I remember what that was like. But one of the things that's interesting about me as an African American in the middle class, it is not unusual to have that many family members. You know, your listeners may know Tonya Mosley, who's from Detroit and hosts Here and Now, or Jenn White, who hosts 1A. Both those people who are public radio folks both have families deeply embedded in the auto industry. And it tells you how important cars have been in moving Black people, especially from the South, where you just came from, to the North and moving them into the middle class.

Saliby: You mentioned this earlier, but there's so many little stories and connections you find ways to weave into telling the history of the car. What surprised you most when you were making this podcast?

Bring Back Bronco podcast logo
Credit Ford Motor Company
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The eight-episode series tracks the history of the Ford Bronco.

Glinton: Well, I'll tell you quickly the thing that surprised me the most was that the Ford Bronco was drawn by the first black car designer in Detroit who also had a role in the Mustang and the Thunderbird. His name was McKinley Thompson, and literally, it blew my mind to realize that, and like you can hear it in the tape when I, you can hear the surprise when I realized.

The funniest story is that people in Southern California like white Broncos. And so, a Ford executive, this poor schmuck, ordered hundreds of white Broncos, coincidentally, weeks before the slow speed chase with OJ Simpson. So, days after the slow speed chase, hundreds of Broncos end up on dealer floors around Southern California. You can't imagine this poor guy's luck. Actually though, just a little tidbit, sales of the Bronco went up after the slow speed chase. That's something that is interesting to remember about that.

Saliby: You said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press this week that the podcast audience you're intending for is women. What did you mean by that?

Glinton: Well, I mean is that the people who are going to...the reason that Ford is bringing back a vehicle, they don't do this for nostalgia. They don't spend a billion dollars to bring back a vehicle. When you look at who buys SUVs, over 60%, now of vehicles sold in the US are SUVs. Women buy those cars, and they're responsible for 80-plus percent of car purchases. So, if you have a car show and you're not talking to women, you're not talking to anybody, right? And that is the thing that the industry kind of has to understand.

Also another thing is that people when you, I live in West Hollywood, Southern California, when you look around here and you see people buying $120,000 and $150,000 used Broncos, they're mainly women, superstars. Ford was looking at that and if they see another Bronco go on sale for $300,000, right? There might be a market there. And one of the things we're learning also is that women have flooded the vintage SUV market, looking for things that men are not looking for. I want a Porsche 911. Women are looking for trucks and SUVs. And that is amazing, and they're younger and younger and younger.

This is not in a condescending way. If this car is going to be successful, it will be a chick car. I don't mean that in a condescending way, but if it's going to be successful, women are going to love it and organically want to be interested in it.

The show is thinking about them, and it's not just a bunch of White boys reminiscing about trucks. It's about talking to people who are going to buy it and are interested in storytelling and care about products.

Saliby: Sonari Glinton is the host of the podcast, Bring Back Bronco: The Untold Story. Sonari, thanks for joining me.

Glinton: It's been a pleasure.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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