Dude, where’s my Bronco? Ford customers, dealers play a waiting game

Excessive demand and limited supply are causing frustration for potential buyers of the hottest new SUV Blue Oval

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Kevin Klimek’s lifelong loyalty to Ford has not been broken, but is constantly changing.

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When Ford launched a website to apply for new Bronco reservations in July 2020, Klimek, a 52-year-old network engineer, hovered over his computer like a teenager interested in concert tickets. He put down his $100 deposit and thought if he wasn’t the first order, it was close.

Today, Klimek is around number 400 in the Bronco queue at Granger Motors, just outside Des Moines, Iowa. The family-owned dealership receives about 11 SUVs each month. At that pace, Klimek, a Mustang owner who has never bought a car of another brand, will get his Bronco almost five years after he puts down his deposit.

“I’m a realist,” he said. “I know it’s a difficult time to launch a vehicle. What bothers me is seeing people on social media saying, ‘I just ordered and I’ve got a VIN number.’”

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As Ford’s Bronco tries to tackle a supply chain disaster exacerbated by the pandemic, outrage sparked by Twitter about how rigs are being shared risks tarnishing the company’s hot record. The selling, high-profit Bronco has been big business for Ford since it went on sale last year. This is key to helping fund Ford’s $30 billion commitment to launch electric vehicles; that figure grows by another $20 billion to convert factories to build EVs, Bloomberg recently reported.

Ford convinces its most loyal customers to book vehicles months in advance, but the order queue is far from first come, first served. Large dealers take priority over small shops in digital queues, especially to the detriment of rural customers. And Ford has acknowledged that hundreds of dealers charge sticker prices, which the stores refer to as “market adjustments.”

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The Bronco market is wild and nobody seems to be breaking it. And waiting is the hardest part.

“It’s really frustrating; it frustrates everyone,” Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley told Bloomberg. “All we can do right now is scale as quickly as possible and break the boundaries and communicate to (buyers) what’s realistic.”

Farley and his predecessors had never before grappled with market dynamics like this. The new Bronco is a storied model revival over the years. Being a frenzy on social media and message boards, it’s becoming one of the most anticipated vehicle launches of 2021.

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Ford, anticipating uncontrollable demand, set up a digital reservation system, referring to the day’s social distancing rules and a clever way of blocking what buyers wanted months before production. Companies don’t have to guess, for example, what colors are the most popular or the share of buyers who prefer two doors to four. Customers, in turn, don’t need a test drive to sell. But they have to sit on their thumbs for a while.

Ford Bronco
Pre-production 2021 two-door Bronco Black Diamond series in Cyber ​​Orange Metallic Tri-Coat with Sasquatch™ off-road package available. Photo by Ford

What irritates buyers is not the length of the wait but the injustice. These consumers were under the impression that Ford would distribute its seminal Broncos entirely in the order they were placed. Dealers like Granger Motors expect the same, according to Zach Westrum, who inherited the company from his father. Westrum saw the Bronco as an opportunity to become a bigger player in a market of around 3,000 Ford stores, so he offered a set price, $1,000 below MSRP. At launch, with the first Broncos still barely a year away, many dealers refused to agree on any pricing, so Granger’s offer attracted orders from across the country—1,300 in all.

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However, in a conference call with Ford two months after he started taking deposits, Westrum said he heard the term “allocation formula” and quickly realized his strategic sales coup would turn into a supply nightmare. He described the moment as a “stomach punch.”

Using an allocation formula is an outdated strategy where automakers decide where to ship their finished vehicles. With coveted models, priority is usually given to larger dealers and those rushing to sell less popular models. With the Bronco, Ford says only half of its deliveries will be routed based on online orders; another quarter will be shipped based on dealer location, with larger markets getting priority, and the final 25 percent will be shipped based on historical sales volume, with a precedent for larger, busier stores.

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For every grainy photo of Ford’s PR team on social media, there’s a long, sharp comment with the same sentence: where’s my photo?

Granger thought it had more Bronco orders than any other store in the country, but it was a mid-sized dealer in corn country; The Ford equation would benefit larger dealers in big auto markets like Dallas and Los Angeles. “I thought it would be first come, first served,” Westrum said, “but 50 percent of the formula was working against us.”

Last year, Granger was only able to fulfill 150 of its 1,300 orders, almost all of them for customers who fly in, pick up their SUVs, and return overseas. In October, Ford tweaked the formula further, this time adding to the sales equation for the Bronco Sport, a smaller sibling model that launched in late 2020. Granger slashed prices on the Bronco Sports, but with only a few weeks left in 2021, that’s not helping much. . good. Earlier this year, deliveries of the Bronco Westrum slowed to a crawl.

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“I get the reasons for the allocation formula, and I don’t actually think it’s unfair,” he said. “The frustrating thing here … is that Ford moved the goalposts, and how are customers supposed to know about that?”

2022 Ford Bronco Everglades
2022 Ford Bronco Everglades Photo by Ford

This drama is also popular on social media. For every grainy photo of Ford’s PR team—every proud post of a new Bronco pilot—there’s a long, sharp comment with the same repetition: where’s mine?

Standard economics would suggest Ford is simply increasing supply to build a way out of this. But the Bronco shares the Wayne, Michigan, factory with the Ranger pickup, another popular model. Even if Ford added a third crew at the plant, computer chips and other parts would still be scarce.

“I would say now is not the best time to do that,” explains Farley. “And I’ve learned in this business that it’s better to have too little.”

Meanwhile, Ford is fueling demand even more. This week, it unveiled a new version of the Bronco dubbed the Everglades edition, complete with a 10,000-pound winch in the front bumper and an engine snorkel for deep water cruising. Ford says for now, this model is only available to existing Bronco reservation holders.

When Ford splashed out on the rig on Twitter, one response read: “Looking forward to seeing this on many Fords in 2030.”

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