FORD

Ford just stopped accepting online reservations for new Bronco: Here's why

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

Fighting production challenges and consumer demand, Ford Motor Co. no longer is accepting online customer reservations for its all-new, full-size 2021 Bronco, as the automaker had been since the launch of the high-profile SUV a year ago, the Free Press has learned.

Ford sent a memo to dealerships last week titled "special announcement" saying "Bronco Vehicle Reservation Paused."

A new Ford Bronco on Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

The Free Press obtained a copy of the memo, which said: 

"Based on Dealer Council feedback, effective Monday, August 23rd, Ford has paused the creation of new reservations for Bronco vehicles. The decision to pause reservations is due to the high number of Bronco 2 and 4-door model orders and current commodity constraints.

"Customers are encouraged to work directly with their dealer who can help with the ordering process, delivery timing expectations, and build specifications. For example, dealers can best guide if a customer may be able to get a stock vehicle that’s already built or scheduled. Due to the high number of orders, delivery of Bronco vehicles placed today will extend through (the) 2022 calendar year."

Ford will "communicate a plan to reopen reservations when available."

In addition, the company asked dealers to be sure their websites and advertising initiatives are no longer promoting Bronco reservations, which have been accepted online from customers until now.

Online reservations have been accepted for the Mustang Mach-E and the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning, too. But the Bronco, which has met an overwhelming demand based on its popularity, has also run into production challenges that include replacing all hardtops. The company said in mid-August the hardtops failed to meet quality expectations and changed appearance after exposure to extreme water and humidity.

"Advertising and promotional material should be updated to encourage customers to talk to their Dealer about placing an order," Ford said in the memo. "Advertising and promotional material should be updated to encourage customers to talk to their Dealer about placing an order,"

'High demand'

Ford offered additional explanation:

  • "Can a customer place an order for a Bronco vehicle if they do not have a reservation? Yes, customers are encouraged to work directly with their dealer who can help with the ordering process, timing and options."
  • "If a customer already has a reservation for a Bronco vehicle but has not converted it to an order yet, can they still place an order? Yes. Dealers can convert existing reservations to orders with customer consent."

Customers can order any Bronco model that is available on the Bronco build and price website but supply chain disruption is creating ongoing challenges, so certain orders will be built more quickly than others at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

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The scheduling system will continue to pull orders based on the customer reservation time stamp. Ford said in the memo. "As the system runs out of buildable orders because of commodity challenges, it will move down the list until it finds an order that is buildable."

'We've got our hands full'

Steve Gabbara, general manager of Szott Ford in Holly, said Ford has been "very public" about the challenges involving the Bronco build and the temporary change in protocol is "wise."

"We don't want to overpromise and underdeliver with new orders so now we're going to pause with online ordering and get everything tightened up on the Ford side so we can come back and start taking orders again," Gabbara said, having recently returned from a company meeting in Dallas. 

"All the '21 model year Broncos are sold out. All online reservations were '22 model year and beyond. They could even be '23," he said. "As of now, the only way you can guarantee a Bronco was through the online reservation system. This pause wasn't designed to flip from online ordering to dealers but instead it's a pause for Ford to get on their feet."

Ford Broncos on the assembly floor on Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

While both Mustang Mach-E and the all-electric F-150 Lightning and the compact Maverick pickup started with online reservations only, they're now open to dealership activity, Gabbara said. "But Ford is still keeping its arms tightly wrapped around allocation of the Bronco through online reservations. They're saying, 'Hey, we've got our hands full right now.' " 

Getting hard tops delivered is a key priority, he said. "This is just, 'Let's put the brakes on for a minute, catch our breath and go back at it.' I think it's wise. This is truly a pause. They didn't say how long. It could be seven days or seven weeks. They've given us no indication."

Keep calm

Said Deep, Ford spokesman, reiterated the Ford website is "temporarily paused" and customers are urged to contact dealers who can explain timing and process and what's in the pipeline better than a computer system. 

"Sometimes dealers have a better line of sight," Deep told the Free Press. "There might be one coming, a soft top, that could be here next week. Or if you order now you're likely looking at a 2022 model. Customers who want to place an order can go to a dealer."

Dealers will be able to place retail orders for the 2022 Bronco between October and December of this year with details coming soon, Ford said.

"We're really excited to offer Bronco customers even more options," Deep said Monday. "The 2022 model year will include new colors and new special editions, such as a manual transmission on the Sasquatch package."

Managing problems

Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, said Ford needs to avoid unnecessary production costs. 

"They've come out with a couple big recalls in the last few days," she said, noting the Bronco hardtop replacement plus faulty seat belts installed in 2021 F-150 pickups

"I think they're taking a serious look at their manufacturing and making sure issues are resolved. They might have workforce issues and/or replacement of workers on the line. Who knows?" Bailo said. "Generally, they seem to be taking a hard look at the manufacturing operation and making sure they've got it right."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Aug. 26 a recall of approximately 16,430 Super Cab pickups with seat belts that may not provide restraint in a crash. Vehicles affected by the recall were built at the Dearborn Truck Plant and Kansas City Assembly Plant from Jan. 2 through May 27.

'Most important launch in ages'

Buckling down on quality control is essential and time is running out on getting vehicles built in 2021, said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions based in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.

Automakers often switch over to the next model year in the summertime, usually July, he said. The 2021 Bronco build has been extended and will be produced possibly into December in order to fill backlogged orders, he said. 

The all-new Ford Bronco is so popular that some people who take possession of the hot SUV are selling it on eBay. This one was listed for $125,000 on Aug. 13.

"The collectability and desirability of a 2021 Bronco makes this a special case. Model years are rather fluid and dependent on federal regulations and customer demand," he said. "You don't get too many products where people are willing to wait and pay extra. You'd expect the manufacturer to have all the P's and Q's in line. It's the most important launch from Ford in ages."

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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard:313-618-1034 orphoward@freepress.com.Follow her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.