DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. will decide in the next few months whether to begin a feasibility study to put the Ford Bronco concept into production, a top executive tells Ward's following its debut here at the North American International Auto Show.

The auto maker will assess reaction at the Detroit show and decide, this quarter, whether to launch a 6-month feasibility study, says Phil Martens, group vice president-North America product creation.

The boxy, upright, barebones SUV with a unique suspension and double the torque and horsepower of the Focus ST, is powered by a 2L diesel.

The purpose-built urban vehicle is rugged, down to the plastic and rubber floor mats.

Ford Bronco concept targeted at tough urban crowd.

An Escape SUV provides the basis for the concept, but a production vehicle would actually be closer in size to the EcoSport, a B-segment SUV, says Martens.

What Martens envisions is somewhere between the B and C segments in size – a “C minus.”It shouldn’t be hard to put into production – “it’s not complex delivery,” Martens says.

Part of the viability study will be deciding which vehicle will donate its architecture. Martens leans towards the smaller EcoSport, saying the platform offers many features that would do well in North America, and Canada in particular.

It also would fall under the Escape in price, nestling into the price-sensitive group of products designed to appeal to young buyers.

The Escape is sold out and there would be capacity issues adding another product to the two plants already building the popular compact.

The plant in South America that builds the EcoSport also is at capacity. “We would have to add capacity in Brazil to do it, as well,” says Martens.

With the Bronco, Ford serves notice it embraces the hip-hop crowd and the tough, hip urban Detroit mentality that has moved from the fringe into the mainstream.

It is Ford’s definition of “raw, authentic and bare bones,” says J Mays, group vice president-design. “It’s a piece of equipment, a chunk of iron with room just for people and a spare (tire).”

Mays says the boxy, upright SUV takes the spirit of the original Bronco and taps into the urban landscape that “has become aspirational for all…and doesn’t depend on which side of 8 Mile you live on,” a reference to the street that separates Detroit from its northern suburbs.

“It’s a mindset,” he says, that appeals to a growing number of consumers aged 30 and older, 70% of whom are white. “We want this reflected in our products.”

Mays says the rural landscape is reflected in sales of the Ford F-150 pickup; suburbia is taken care of with the Ford’s family of SUVs and cross/utility vehicles. That leaves an opportunity for growth in the urban part of the spectrum.

Tough and urban are reflected in the new Ford Mustang muscle car, as well as the Bronco. The Bronco also would work as a pre-emptive strike against entry-level Jeeps, says Martens.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com