FORD

Michigan Assembly Plant manager who oversees Bronco, Ranger no longer with Ford

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

Michigan Assembly Plant manager Erik Williams, who has overseen the production of the bestselling Ford Bronco and the Ford Ranger midsize pickup truck, left that role Thursday, the Free Press has learned.

Ford spokesman Said Deep declined to discuss why Williams left.

“We do not comment on individual personnel matters. However, we can confirm he is no longer with the company," Deep told the Free Press on Friday. 

Ford has not named a replacement, saying it's the subject of a future announcement.

The Free Press reached out to Williams but didn't immediately hear back. His LinkedIn online professional profile said he has worked at Ford since October 2004. 

Plant manager Erik Williams looks over a new Ford Bronco on Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Michigan Assembly, in Wayne, builds some of the most lucrative products for the automaker. The Ford Bronco has been hampered by a troubled production and delivery process that caused wide criticism among customers.

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

Ford CEO Jim Farley, in earnings calls with investors, has emphasized his commitment to improving quality, performance and customer satisfaction. These vehicles sold now were designed and tested prior to Farley taking the helm in October 2020. But he must deal with the financial fallout of fixing these new products.

Bronco successes, and challenges, have been especially high-profile because customers waited decades for the iconic SUV. It reemerged after a 24-year absence. It was revealed in July 2020 and began customer delivery  in 2021.

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The Bronco, built from 1966 to 1996, developed a cult following and now commands high prices from collectors. It was discontinued in the wake of O.J. Simpson's attempt to elude police in a white Bronco on national TV in 1994.

Farley predicted the Bronco would battle Jeep Wrangler, a popular off-road vehicle that has dominated the adventure segment.

This photo from Dec. 8, 2021, shows Porpoise Point on Vilano Beach in St. Augustine, Florida, where Bronco owners had a meetup.

Meanwhile, the company has had to manage replacing all rooftops initially because they were defective and discoloring.

The 2021 Bronco and Ranger have been recalled for child locks that may not work and a misaligned radar module that means adaptive cruise control may not keep a safe distance and the emergency braking system may react slowly or not at all. In addition, the Ranger has a seatbelt defect.

Yet Ranger and Bronco sales continue to fuel profits at Ford.

Timing

Williams' departure happened the same day that the Dearborn automaker announced the retirement of longtime executive Hau Thai-Tang, who spent his accomplished career in product development. In March, Thai-Tang, who will remain at the company until Oct. 1, was named to lead manufacturing engineering for internal combustion engine products. 

In addition, Frederiek Toney, who oversaw customer service at Ford, also announced his retirement Thursday. He leaves Dec. 1

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

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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512 orphoward@freepress.com.Follow her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.