All too often, major automakers like Ford are in the headlines for reasons that are less than great, especially throughout the last year amid shutdowns, health and safety concerns, and the chip shortage. Recently, however, Ford has been making the news for several reasons that are actually quite positive, not only for them but also for their customers. It’s easy to take shots at the big manufacturers when they mess up (I should know, I’m one who’s always lined up to do so), but it’s also worth pointing out when they do things right, in hopes of encouraging more of it.
Getting Ahead of Future Chip Shortages
If you’re interested in the auto industry, or even if you simply check out news headlines on a regular basis, then you no doubt know about – or at least have heard about – the microchip shortage going on right now. While it has hit pretty much every major manufacturer in one way or another, the auto industry has been particularly impacted by the current shortage. Not to get too off-track, but the gist of it is pretty simple: microchip manufacturers had to deal with COVID shutdowns and other issues last year, which means there’s a shortage of the chips they make – chips that are used in anything that’s in any way computerized.
The auto industry has been really demolished by this shortage because in response to initial shutdowns last year and worries about having too many vehicles produced, the manufacturers reduced their orders for chips. By the time they realized they didn’t need fewer – in fact, they needed more – there was a shortage underway, and they were in the back of the line for chips behind big players like Apple, Sony, and Samsung. So now they’re desperately trying to get chips, and this has resulted in a shortage of new vehicles throughout the industry.
In an effort to get through the current chip shortage and avoid similar issues in the future, Ford has been talking to GlobalFoundaries Inc, one of the world’s largest independent semiconductor chip manufacturers employing more than 15,000 people and with factories in the US, Germany, and beyond. Details are currently still under wraps, but it seems that Ford is trying to secure a microchip supply going forward with a long-term deal.
According to what’s been said, it seems that this deal could result in Ford starting to manufacture chips for their own use through the expertise of their partner company. This doesn’t exactly eliminate the middle man for microchips, but it means Ford wouldn’t have to wait for other companies to finally provide them with chips. Considering a lot of experts are predicting this shortage will continue throughout most or all of 2022 – perhaps leaking into 2023 – this is a big play by Ford. It will help them deal with the ongoing shortage and ensure they’re better equipped to meet their microchip needs in the years ahead.
Bronco Getting a Most-Requested Feature
There’s no denying that the return of the Ford Bronco has been incredibly well-received, with tremendous excitement by a lot of people who are excited to get the all-new off-road SUV. Unfortunately, Ford’s handling of pre-orders, manufacturing, and expectations hasn’t exactly been flawless. In fact, you could argue that the launch of the Ford Bronco has been pretty horrendous: there have been numerous delays, lack of communication and updates, shortages on certain trims and options, and much more for customers to deal with.
In the midst of all this, there was also another downside to the Ford Bronco, one that has likely kept some people from pre-ordering a vehicle they otherwise wanted. Despite the incredible off-road performance and functionality of the Bronco, particularly with the available Sasquatch package, it had one feature that wasn’t negotiable: an automatic transmission. While automatics have pretty much taken over the auto industry at this point, there are still some committed pockets of fans who like seeing manual transmissions available as an option.
Almost immediately after the Ford Bronco was revealed and details became available, people began coordinating online to request that a manual transmission be offered. Even Car and Driver got in on the action, giving the manual-transmission enthusiasts a platform and supporting them in their efforts to see it become an option. While none of this was able to get it added to the initial release and first model year, it would seem that Ford was listening.
Starting with the 2022 model year, the Ford Bronco with the Sasquatch now has a manual transmission as an available option. In fact, pre-orders for models with a manual are already available, so if you’ve been interested in the Bronco but prefer the total control that a manual transmission offers, then you’re in luck. It’s a 7-speed manual that’s offered on the 270 hp 2.3L turbocharged engine, but not the more powerful 310 hp option. That’s not enough to diminish the victory that this represents for manual-transmission fans, but it’s still worth noting.
Designing the F-150 Lightning Frunk
When I look at a lot of vehicles, I’m often shocked at just how frequently the design and various aspects seem to ignore the desires of drivers and their customers. In the race to make things different and flashy, functionality often gets left behind in favor of style and bragging rights – Tesla interiors, I’m looking in your direction. Particularly egregious examples of this lately have included the widespread shift to touchscreen functionality for stereo and climate controls over tactile buttons and knobs – something that’s, thankfully, reversing direction.
So when I see a manufacturer actually designing something with daily functionality in mind, I cannot help but stop and appreciate such a rare and important moment. Admittedly, some of this is Ford patting itself on the back, but I don’t even care because the message that comes through is still pretty clear. In designing the front truck, or frunk, of the F-150 Lightning, Ford did something innovative: they talked to their customers to see what people actually wanted.
The results are a “Mega Power” frunk that delivers impressive levels of functionality. What this really came down to is that the frunk on the F-150 Lightning presented something entirely new: it was a new storage space for truck owners, and Ford wanted to know what people would want from it. The results were pretty clear: large, functional space that people could use for both work and play.
Ford designed it to be big enough to fit two golf bags, offering 14.1 cubic feet of total cargo volume, with an asymmetrical design that fully takes advantage of the space available upfront. It has a rubberized floor with anti-slide texturing, so whatever you toss in there will be kept stable. Tailgating potential was an immediate draw, Ford has made it water-resistant, cleanable, and it has a drainable floor so you can fill it with ice and beverages without much worry.
What really impresses me, however, is the lighting and power functionality. For starters, Ford’s designers went through several passes on the lighting, starting with traditional trunk lighting, but ending up with truck bed lamps that offer better overall illumination and visibility. On top of that, it has a power open and close system, including the ability to open it using an app on your phone, and they designed it to be waist-height for easy access. Finally, there are four power outlets and a pair of USB charging connections inside the frunk, so you can power a TV, laptop, crockpot, power tools, or just about anything else. These are the kinds of design decisions I can get behind!
Where Will Ford Go Next?
Ford is making strides in the right direction, and it seems the company is fully listening to what their customers want while keeping a keen eye on market trends and production needs. Where will this lead Ford to go in the future? Well, that remains to be seen, but we are sure that if Ford keeps on the path they are going down currently, we will have a lot of interesting, unique, and exciting things to benefit from in the future.