FORD

Ford wants defective Bronco hardtops to disappear forever after supplier issues

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

Thousands of Bronco SUVs that saw delayed shipment pending hardtop roof replacement have been finished and are all being shipped to dealers now, Ford confirmed Wednesday.

The process will be done by the end of this month, the company said.

"We’re happy to report that we’ve completed the roof replacement for those Broncos that were being held at the Michigan Assembly Plant," Mark Grueber, Ford Bronco marketing manager, told the Free Press this week.  "We wanted to make sure these units were meeting our quality standards."

Some Bronco owners have been waiting since August for Ford to replace the defective hardtop and deliver a vehicle just launched in June — after a high-profile global reveal in summer 2020.

Meanwhile, Bronco owners who already have their vehicle may have scheduled or completed the repair, or choose to wait until after the salt and snow to replace the part, Ford said.

The defective Bronco hardtops began to change appearance when exposed to extreme water and humidity. Instead of being a uniform smooth surface, some hardtops changed to a honeycomb pattern with discoloration. 

Mark Grueber, Ford Bronco marketing manager, has worked for 25 years to bring the vehicle back to the market almost since the day it went out of production on June 12, 1996. Now he's trying to get the hardtop roof issues resolved.

The company made a point of saying the hardtops will be "scrapped," so they disappear forever. 

"Those are being disposed of so that they cannot be re-sold or show up on a vehicle down the road," Grueber said.

Testing complete:Ford confirms it will ship new hardtops, Broncos within one week

Defective hardtop materials cannot be recycled in this situation because the panels are fully finished, the company said.

Beneath standards

Ford told customers and dealers who had taken possession of a 2021 Ford Bronco with a molded-in color hardtop on all two-door and four-door SUVs in August the piece would need to be replaced, at no cost to the consumer, because they failed to meet company standards.

The Dearborn automaker reported this action affected only a few thousand hardtop vehicles that had been sold to customers, shipped to dealers or remained on hold by the company near the plant, Ford said at the time.

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As part of its extensive pre-delivery inspections, Ford discovered the molded-in color roofs made by its supplier partner, Webasto, had launch problems. 

In early July, the Free Press first reported that the Webasto hardtop problems were disrupting production and delivery.

Instagram update 

On Monday, Ford notified its consumers via Instagram that the Bronco hardtop issue had been completed. Grueber said.

The message read:

"Hello from the Ford Bronco SUV team!"

We have some good news.

All Ford Bronco SUVs at our plant have new hardtop roofs and will be shipping before the end of the year."

Dealer fix

Jeff King, vice president and general manager at Bozard Ford Lincoln in St. Augustine, Florida, said Tuesday his dealership had done one hardtop swap so far.

"It's a one-day process," he said. 

Jeff King, vice president and general manager at Bozard Ford Lincoln in St. Augustine, Florida, pictured here at his dealership in July 2019, said business is steady. He's taking measures to keep customers and workers safe.

Meanwhile, Chad Wilson, general manager of Wilson Ford in Saginaw and Midland Ford, said customers at this point just roll with whatever comes their way in terms of collision repair issues or supply chain challenges.

But Ford had placed a hold on Broncos before delivering any to Wilson, so he hasn't had to deal with hardtop roof replacement. The vehicles sent to dealerships for test driving may need attention but that's not a problem for anyone, Wilson said.

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On social media, including Twitter and Facebook, Bronco owners have expressed frustration about waiting for vehicle delivery and then dealing with the headache of a defective part. But, in the end, many Bronco owners have plastered social media sites with celebration images — saying it's all worth the wait.

New production plans

Ford is looking forward to a seamless production transition in 2022 and more capacity to fill an insatiable demand for the popular vehicles, Ford spokesperson Said Deep told the Free Press.

Despite issues with quality and production in recent months, Ford seems to have ironed out the issues. The company is moving forward with its supplier Webasto, which is proceeding with a new facility in Michigan as planned.

"We look forward to the launch of our plant in New Hudson, Michigan, and are ramping up for production in early 2022," said Alexandra Iordache, a Webasto spokesperson based in Auburn Hills. 

The German supplier plans on employing about 370 people in various roles in manufacturing, engineering, and plant support at the new site, she told the Free Press.

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Webasto builds Bronco soft top roofs at a plant in Plymouth and Bronco hardtop roofs at a plant in Detroit. It is adding hardtop production at a new plant in New Hudson, according to Webasto spokesperson Susanne Killian.

Editor's note: Content in this story has been edited for clarification after publishing.

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.