How Ford will 'ease the pain' for Bronco customers facing long wait for vehicle

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

Ford Motor Co. has set up a special "satisfaction" fund for Bronco customers that allows for maximum payments of $1,000 in "an attempt to assist dealerships while helping manage the wait for Bronco customers with confirmed orders."

The Dearborn automaker asked dealers and sales managers in a letter dated Sept. 1 to "create an action plan for how best to use your budget to help engage Bronco customers and help manage their wait."

Bronco, which is intended to directly compete with the Jeep brand, was revealed one year ago and rapidly garnered more than 190,000 reservations. The popular SUV, built from 1965 until 1996, was brought back by popular demand.

In early July, 125,000 preorders had been converted to official orders with waiting customers. Ford cautioned that the company was so overwhelmed initially that some orders wouldn't be filled until calendar year 2022, and those vehicles might end up being 2023 models.

In August, Ford said it would replace all hardtops on the 2021 Bronco after extreme water and humidity affected the appearance. The Free Press first reported supplier problems with hardtop production and delivery in July.

In an attempt to manage ongoing challenges, Ford halted online reservations.

Within 48 hours of the Free Press story about the change in online reservation protocol, Ford sent the Bronco customer satisfaction fund letter to dealers to juice things up and keep folks happy.

"We know Bronco customers are raring to get into their Bronco SUVs. However, due to unprecedented demand, production challenges with the roof supplier, and key commodity restraints, the time from initially placing a reservation to ultimately taking delivery has seen many delays and ensuing frustration," the company wrote.

The customer satisfaction money will be allocated based on reservations converted to orders.

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The program runs from Sept. 1 to June 30.

The letter provides these as examples for distribution: 

  • "A special thank you for customers who need to come in for a replacement hardtop roof or who take a Bronco test drive while they wait."
  • "A surprise & delight gift as part of (20)22 model year order consultations."
  • "Assistance for customers who may have expressed a concern over their current vehicle needs getting through the wait time."

The letter includes this advice on use of the money to manage waiting customers: 

  • Provide payment assistance to an interim vehicle purchase/lease
  • Help with rental vehicle coverage
  • Cover their vehicle's next scheduled maintenance
  • Offer a discount toward a Ford Protect Extended Warranty or Maintenance Plan
  • Buy a bottle of their favorite bourbon or spirit to thank them for their loyalty and patience.

To get reimbursement from the company, Ford dealers must provide documentation that the spend is for eligible customers by providing a customer reservation identification number, a customer order number, an invoice or receipt and photo. 

Jeff King, vice president and general manager at Bozard Ford Lincoln in St. Augustine, Florida, told the Free Press that he plans to use the customer satisfaction money to rent the Bronco Off-Roadeo facility outside of Austin, Texas, on Monday and Tuesday, plus reserve 35 seats on an airplane.

"We're going to max out the funds on people who want to go with us. It paid for airfare and two nights at Horseshoe Bay," King said. "For us, we would rather create experiences than buy a key chain for people."

Guy Gooding of Sobieski, Wisconsin, learned in mid-August his Bronco hardtop order had been pushed back to the 2022 model year because of production delays. He said he has asked his dealer to use customer satisfaction funds to provide trade assistance for the purchase of an interim Ford while he awaits delivery.

These dollars are paid completely by Ford, not the dealers, Mark Grueber, Ford Bronco marketing manager, told the Free Press on Tuesday. He noted that dealers may supplement if they choose. Ford emphasized that the $1,000 amount is a per person maximum and meant for special cases, and that the fund could not support paying $1,000 to all customers waiting.

"Each customer is a different situation," Grueber said. "Some may not need any compensation. We just want to empower our dealers to take care of our customers."

Smart move

Analysts commended Ford for taking creative steps to fuel love for Bronco under difficult circumstances.

"It's tough to know how much of this is Ford’s issue, in terms of the delay, versus how much are forces beyond their control," Karl Brauer, executive analyst at, a car listing and data site, said Tuesday.

"At the end of the day, the people who want their Bronco don’t have them yet and they’re getting frustrated. You sense that from social media activity. Regardless of the cause, this is a good move to offset some of the negative energy that has developed around this very important vehicle. It’s unfortunate because it's one of most exciting launches for Ford," he said. "I've been in a Bronco for two weeks and I'm more smitten with the car than I ever was."

Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for the online marketplace, said the payments will help to "ease the pain" of customers who have been waiting a long time.

"Ford can afford to do that. It’s a hot vehicle," she said. "They’ll get a good price for it. There’s a good profit margin in that right now."

Meanwhile, new data shows Ford is doing better than its competitors on inventories.

"They’re making and selling Bronco, Bronco Sport, Edge, Mavericks, pretty much everything," Krebs said Tuesday. "Ford's inventory is up to 50 days supply as of mid-August, when the industry average was 31 days. Looks like first to get hit hardest and first to come out. But Bronco is still the lowest supply."

Walking the dog

Wall Street has watched the Bronco generate powerful enthusiasm for the company.

Adam Jonas, a Wall Street analyst at Morgan Stanley, topped his Friday investor note with an anecdote about the Bronco that illustrates demand: 

I was walking my dog (Foster) in the town park this morning and came across a friend who was eager to tell me about his recent car shopping experience. He wants to trade out of his Jeep and into the new Bronco which he recently test-drove and absolutely fell in love with…

So he goes into a local Ford dealer and says “I want to buy one.” The dealer smiles and says: “You have to order it online, put down your $100 reservation deposit … then when we confirm your order you leave another $500 with us … and you probably won’t get it until late 2022.”

My friend says: “OK, but what if I want to buy that Bronco right there on your showroom floor?”

Dealer says: “Well, you see … Ford wants each of its dealers to have at least one Bronco on the floor for demos/test drives … so you’d have to pay many thousands of dollars over sticker if you want that one. How about I put you on a wait list for this model and let you know if or when it becomes available.”

The next day, Jonas wrote, the dealer texted his friend to say the demonstration Bronco was "no longer available" after another customer bought it for $67,000 — and the sticker price was $58,000.

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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at313-618-1034 her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.