Ford Says Bronco Delay Caused by Virus-Hampered Part Supplier

Ford Motor Co. says a delay in the launch of its new Bronco sport-utility vehicle was caused by a single parts supplier that couldn’t bring engineers with critical equipment to the U.S. from Europe on schedule because of the global pandemic.

“We have one particular supplier that was really impacted by Covid because most of their tooling was coming from Europe,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s global-product development chief, said Monday in an interview. “Given where we saw their readiness, we wanted to make sure we gave them sufficient time to do multiple quality loops to ensure that we deliver with quality.”

Ford Says Bronco Delay Caused by Virus-Hampered Part Supplier

While Ford wouldn’t identify the supplier, it is believed to be the company supplying a removable roof for the revival of the rugged SUV, according to Joe McCabe, chief executive officer of consultant AutoForecast Solutions. McCabe, who surveyed suppliers to determine the culprit, said Ford is being especially cautious with its rival to the Jeep Wrangler because the SUV is so key to the company’s turnaround.

“This is a very important product for Ford’s bottom line,” McCabe said. “They’ve got to come out firing because people are expecting a Jeep fighter. So it’s got to be as bulletproof as possible.”

That helps explain why the Bronco delay has been elevated all the way to the top of the company. New Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley led a meeting first thing Monday morning with the CEO of the supplier, said Thai-Tang, who participated in the session.

“Everybody is very clear on what we need to do,” Thai-Tang said. “We only have one chance to make a first impression.”

The Detroit Free Press earlier reported on problems with the Bronco’s roof.

‘Semantics’ Shift

Production of the Bronco will still start in the spring, as originally planned, Thai-Tang said. But delivery to dealers is being delayed by several weeks to the summer so the supplier can install and validate tooling going onto the assembly line at the Michigan factory where the SUV will be built. That work was held up by coronavirus-related travel restrictions on engineers coming from the supplier in Europe.

Thai-Tang told a Goldman Sachs investor conference Dec. 4 that Ford’s new-model manufacturing startups “are going very well” and “Bronco is on track to launch in the spring.” Hours later, Ford informed its dealers of the delay.

“It’s semantics; it’s still on track for a spring mass-production date,” Thai-Tang said. “What we agreed on after the Goldman Sachs discussion was notifying our dealers of when they would expect to see the vehicles delivered to the customers, which has now been pushed back to the summer.”

Supply and production disruptions due the pandemic are likely to continue to crop up until at least the middle of next year, Thai-Tang said.

“I really don’t think -- until we get mass deployment of some kind of vaccine -- that we’re going to be able to say we’re completely out of the woods,” Thai-Tang said. “With the interdependency of the global supply base, it’s still going to be very, very tenuous.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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