This is an interesting time for the auto industry, and I say that with both positive and negative connotations fully intended. Ford, in particular, had a rough month with some ups and a lot of downs in May, with plenty to be proud of and some things that weren’t great for the company. With so much news going on every day, it’s easy to miss out on some stories, so I’m going to take you through a quick recap of some of the major things that happened with Ford last month.
Ford F-150 Lightning Officially Revealed
Let’s start with some good news for Ford fans: after being teased more than a year ago, Ford officially revealed the name for their electric truck: the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning. This wasn’t a complete shock (see what I did there?) since Ford has been very open about its development of an electric version of the F-150. But now that it has a name, it feels much more real, and we all have a better sense of what to call it and some of what it can do.
One of the most interesting details revealed with the F-150 Lightning is its Ford Intelligent Backup Power functionality. This will actually let you use the Lightning as an emergency generator for your house if you lose power from the grid. Imagine how much easier the power outages and emergencies from the ice storm in Texas last year would have been to weather if truck owners there had been able to get three days of power – or up to 10 days with power rationing – from their pickup!
The reveal of the F-150 Lightning was a huge win for Ford: they received 20,000 reservations for the truck just within 12 hours of its unveiling. While the Lightning won’t be the first electric truck to hit the market, it’s an important one. The F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the US for more than 40 years, so an EV version of it is going to really showcase if American truck owners are ready to go electric. So far, it seems like you might be.
Ford Bronco Production Update: Mostly Bad News
One of the biggest vehicle launches of this year continues to be plagued by delays and troubles, which is not the best news out of Ford. The Bronco has finally returned after more than 20 years out of the spotlight, and when it was first revealed, there was a massive surge of interest. This resulted in a lot of pre-orders and reservations for the Bronco and its smaller sibling, the Bronco Sport. When these reservations were first opened last summer, Ford stated they were looking at starting deliveries this spring.
Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out, and the initial release was pushed back to this summer. More delays have hit, apparently, as Ford recently sent an update via email to those people who had reserved a Ford Bronco, and the information was not what people wanted to see. At the moment, Ford is facing a serious bottleneck in production as making the molded-in color hardtop roof for the vehicle is apparently more difficult and time-consuming than expected, which is slowing down the entire process.
No specific date was given for when people should expect to finally hear that their vehicles are just about ready for them. Since we’re now in June, kicking off the summer, it seems likely that a lot of people are going to be looking at late summer or fall, at best, for when they’ll be able to get a Bronco. Of course, that’s assuming there aren’t more problems.
Ford Plants Facing Idling as Production Falls
Here’s where the news goes from bad to worse for Ford: the microchip shortage that is impacting so many industries, including auto manufacturing, has caused more problems for Ford. Even though heads of auto companies just a month or two ago were trying to reassure us that things weren’t as bad as they seemed, now they’re all pretty much admitting that yes, things are that bad. The chip shortage is resulting in an inability to make finished, functioning vehicles.
Some companies tried to work around this by continuing production, making vehicles that were ready for the chips once they became available. But there’s no end to the chip shortage in sight, so auto manufacturers have started to be more realistic about things. The result here is that eight Ford plants have seen cuts to production schedules and are being temporarily shut down or idled in hopes that they’ll be able to get back to work soon.
These include plants in Chicago, which will be down for a week and then have a reduced schedule after opening again. The F-150 plants in Dearborn and Kansas City will be down for two weeks and then have reduced schedules, and the Louisville plant in Kentucky will be down for pretty much the entirety of June. At this point, Ford estimates it will only make about half the vehicles it usually produces this month. Considering the chip shortage is expected to continue throughout the rest of this year, it’s going to remain a problem for a while.
Things Are Even Worse for Ford Plants in India
While so many plants being idled here in the US is certainly terrible news, here’s a reminder that things could be worse: Ford has officially halted production at its car plant in Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India. This announcement was made after a sit-in protest by workers there, who were demanding leave and health benefits due to the impact of COVID-19 in the country. I know that sounds like something you would’ve heard a year ago, with so much of the US open and seemingly back to normal, but India is far from normal right now.
Tamil Nadu is a major center for auto manufacturing in India, and Ford’s plant is an important one. But COVID is ravishing the area: at the moment, there are an estimated 30,000 cases each day in this region, one of the worst-hit parts of the country. So far, at least 230 workers just in the Ford plant have caught the virus, and the employees finally decided to protest. The plant remained shut down for at least a week, and workers have been demanding compensation for their medical expenses due to exposure on the job.
Bronco Sport Prices Continue to Rise
If you’ve been following the auto industry recently, then you’ll know that this chip shortage has resulted in far fewer models being available, which in turn has led to significant price increases for new vehicles. Ford has been far from immune to this, however, and in May, they announced an increase to the price of the Bronco Sport (yes, this was alongside the delay of the Bronco’s release – I said it was a rough month). These price changes went into effect at the start of June and depend on the trim you’re looking at.
For example, the baseline Bronco Sport increased by almost $400, while the Outer Banks and Badlands trims went up by $540. This is in addition to a price increase for the Bronco Sport that occurred last year of $160, resulting in a $700 increase in total for certain trims from when they were first announced. Anyone who has already ordered a Bronco Sport has locked in a previous price, but this is another indicator of rough conditions for anyone buying a new vehicle in the next few months. It will be interesting to see how things take shape moving forward in the auto industry for Ford and other manufacturers.