Demand for Ford’s latest products is indeed soaring.
But the delivery of one of the company’s hottest offerings, the new Bronco, has been stumbled by delays that reached the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China.
Not only has Wuhan become the epicenter of the global pandemic, but an industrial city on the Yangtze River in central China is also a major hub for the country’s auto industry with a wide range of suppliers.
Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, said the hardtop roof panel supplier at the Ford Bronco, which went into production this spring, was facing problems securing the equipment needed to install the roof.
The supplier, Webasto, had ordered tools from a supplier in Wuhan before COVID-19 emerged there in 2019, according to Thai-Tang.
As the pandemic spread, the tool was late in reaching the plant that Webasto opened in 2019 to ship parts to Ford and was at the root of delays in starting production of the Bronco, which makes its official debut in the summer of 2020, Ford officials acknowledged.
“They can’t get their hands on the equipment,” Thai-Tang told reporters at a Ford event hosted during the recent Woodward Dream Cruise in metro Detroit, “and then they can’t come here to help integrate it and make it work properly.”
Even as production started, more problems occurred with the Bronco’s roof. “That doesn’t look right,” said Ford spokesman Mike Levine. Because the Bronco is such an important product for Ford, the company wants to make sure every Bronco (image below) can really satisfy customers, he added.
Ford recalled more than 4,000 Broncos already delivered to customers to replace roofs at no cost to customers, according to Detroit Free Press.
An earlier post on the Bronco fan website, Bronco Bastards.com, noted: “Unofficially, the rumors are that the Webasto roof is prone to bending, leading to leaks, and that is something Ford cannot tolerate.
“At the same time, demand for hardtop options, on the two- and four-door Broncos, took Ford and Webasto by surprise, and both companies had realized that the production capacity of the Plymouth, MI, Webasto plants would not be sufficient. to meet this demand in a timely manner,” the website says.
Ford Thai-Tang, however, doesn’t blame Webasto, a German company with operations in Europe and North America which he describes as a longtime supplier with a solid reputation. Ford helped Webasto out of the bottleneck created by the roofing problem, which was delaying deliveries of what promised to be a monster hit for the company.
The problem is being addressed and will be fixed, said Thai-Tang, who rejects the idea that the problem reflects deeper problems in Ford’s engineering and manufacturing operations, as some critics have suggested.
“This is a problem with one supplier,” said Thai-Tang.
With orders piling up for the battery-electric F-150 Lightning and the new Ford Maverick pickup truck, Thai-Tang says Ford is ready to move forward. The company has addressed the issues that hindered the launch of the new generation Ford Explorer in 2019, he said: “It’s not worth it.”
Ford CEO Jim Farley admits quality issues, high warranty costs, and sloppy launches have cost the automaker financially and customers alike. Farley said he made it a priority to address the quality and warranty issues that have plagued Ford in recent years.
For the ’22 model year, the Mustang Mach-E Premium, Mustang EcoBoost Premium and Mustang GT Premium will share all-white styling features inside and out. The ’22 Mustang Ice White Edition is the first look package to be shared with the entire Mustang family on the Mach-E CUV and coupe models, says Thai-Tang.
Ford is reconfiguring the Explorer line for 2022 to appeal to those looking for a unique style by expanding the Explorer ST (image below) line, which accounts for one in every five Explorers sold by Ford dealers.