Just last month, I wrote about some ups and downs for Ford, and this month has brought much of the same with a number of mixed blessings for one of America’s oldest auto manufacturers. Some of what’s been going on is a bit of “inside baseball” when it comes to the industry, and it probably won’t impact you much as a driver or Ford customer. Other events, however, can certainly have an effect on you if you’re thinking about buying a Ford any time soon – or if you’ve already ordered one.
It’s also worth noting that some of the difficulties that Ford is dealing with right now are also impacting other car manufacturers. The ongoing microchip shortage, for example, is hitting Ford just as hard as anyone else; but GM, Tesla, and the Stellantis brands (Jeep, Ram, etc.) are also having a hard time due to this situation. So while I’m singling Ford out today due to some specific news with their company and output, it’s important to remember that this is a weird and difficult time for every company in the industry.
Good News: Ford Broncos are Hitting the Road
I’m not going to bury the lede here because this is probably the best news not only for Ford but also for their fans and customers: the all-new Bronco has started showing up at buyers’ houses. When it was first unveiled last year, the Ford Bronco was supposed to start rolling out well before now, but there have been some delays. Not the least of which, of course, was the COVID pandemic and the shutdown of manufacturing plants last summer.
But now, the first of the new Ford Broncos have begun showing up at people’s homes, and those who pre-ordered the vehicle are starting to get emails letting them know that it’s on its way. I’ve already seen one Ford Bronco here in the town I live in, so this wasn’t startling, but it answered my question of, “How’d that guy get one?!” It’s also worth noting that the model I saw was a Bronco with a soft-top, and that really does matter.
Since well over 100,000 Bronco models have been reserved by anxious customers, this is sure to be good news for a lot of people. So far, the early word is that Bronco Sports are still more likely to be available right now, and when it comes to the full-size Bronco, soft tops are more prevalent than hardtops (see below). The number of features and options chosen also plays a big part, with fully-decked out models (especially those with the Sasquatch package) still being worked on.
Bad News: A Lot of Broncos Have Been Delayed to 2022
In a one-two punch of joy and despair, while some people are already getting their Ford Broncos, others are now being told they won’t get their model until sometime next year. This is definitely not good news for a lot of people since, as I mentioned above, there have already been several delays based on production issues. The microchip shortage is, no doubt, part of the problem in building the new Ford Bronco, but there is another issue at play here too.
The models getting pushed back the furthest are Ford Broncos with a hardtop. In particular, the modular hardtops in white, black, or body color, as well as dual-top roofs, seem to be the issue. There are production slowdowns and delays going on; apparently, these hardtops are proving more difficult to make than expected, and they’re being produced slower than Ford had hoped. As such, people who have reserved models with these tops could find themselves without a Bronco until late next year, when they receive it for the 2023 model year.
Soft tops and the molded-in-color hardtops are apparently not as difficult or time-consuming to make, however, so the Bronco models rolling out now or in the next few months will mostly have those options. If you’ve ordered a Bronco with a modular hardtop, but you don’t want to wait, then you might consider changing to one of these other roofs. Otherwise, I hope patience is one of your virtues because you might be in for a long wait.
Good News: Ford Stock is On the Rise
This is mostly good news for Ford themselves, as their stocks have been on the rise over the course of this year. Despite worries last summer that the auto industry was going to be destroyed by the pandemic, 2020 actually ended up being an excellent year for car manufacturers and a lot of dealerships. As such, Ford entered this year with a pretty strong showing, and a lot of people were hopeful for where they were going to go this year.
The microchip shortage has certainly been an issue that’s got some investors worried about short-term production. But, in the long term, Ford looks strong thanks in large part to their renewed focus on electric vehicles, with a lot of excitement around the Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning. While there were concerns that their CTO leaving (see below) might negatively impact their stock price, the announcement of their new USPS contract (see even more below) and delivery of Bronco models seems to have had the biggest impact.
Bad News: Ford Loses Current CTO
Speaking of their CTO leaving, Ford recently announced that their Chief Technology Officer, Ken Washington, is leaving their company to take a position at Amazon. While people leave jobs all the time, this is a potential blow to Ford due to how integral Washington has been to where they’re at today in terms of their focus on technology. Mr. Washington had been at Ford since 2014 as vice president of research, before becoming the CTO in 2017. During this time, he has been a major leader within the company, pushing toward new technology and innovations.
In particular, as CTO, he worked hard on developing new architecture for Ford’s EV models and on sustainability and computing technology. These are all very important to Ford’s future, so his role as CTO has had a huge impact on what the Ford Motor Company has done in the last few years. Just this year, Ford has hired 600 software engineers, building an army of more than 7,000 software engineers within the company between positions in the US and Canada. No replacement as the new CTO has been announced, and it may be difficult to find someone with Washington’s background and pedigree.
Good News: Ford Benefits from New USPS Contract
For several years now, the United States Postal Service has been taking bids for a contract to build a new fleet of vehicles for them. It was recently announced that the contract has been awarded to Oshkosh Defense and will represent a huge boon to a company best known for its military vehicles. The reason I’m talking about it here, however, is that Oshkosh Defense is going to use engines and powertrains provided by Ford, so this is also a major contract for the blue oval as well.
So far, Ford has confirmed they will provide engines, along with transmissions, suspension parts, and other components for these new USPS vehicles. While Ford’s part of the deal has not been disclosed, the contract with Oshkosh Defense includes the production of as many as 165,000 vehicles over the course of 10 years and is worth $6 billion. With this announcement, and Ford’s part in it, it’s no surprise that Ford’s stocks were on the rise last month. What will this month bring for Ford and the rest of the auto industry? Check back soon and find out!