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Ford Bronco launch delayed until summer 2021 due to COVID-related supply woes

Ford Motor Co. is delaying the launch of the Bronco SUV — one of its most hotly anticipated releases in recent memory — to summer 2021 because of coronavirus-related supplier issues.

"The all-new Bronco two-door and four-door customer deliveries will begin in the summer rather than the spring due to COVID-related challenges our suppliers are experiencing," spokesman Jiyan Cadiz said Friday. "We are committed to building Broncos with the quality our customers expect and deserve."

Ford Bronco

While not ideal, some industry experts and Ford dealers say it's better to delay the launch now than potentially deal with nagging quality issues later, especially on the heels of Ford's botched Explorer launch last year.

Jim Seavitt, owner of the Village Ford dealership in Dearborn, said that while he's not necessarily happy about the launch being pushed back and is concerned it might cause some customers to forego their reservations, he'd rather see the Bronco delayed than have a problematic launch: "Make sure it's right when it comes out. We do not want another Explorer."

Ford declined to share further detail about what the supply issues were or which suppliers were affected. The Mexico-built Bronco Sport already is in production; the Blue Oval sold 22 of them in November, sales figures show.

Ordering for reservation holders will begin in mid-January rather than on Dec. 7 as initially planned, the Dearborn automaker said. And those who have placed orders now have until March 19 to finalize dealer selection, place their order, and agree to a selling price.

Additionally, the Sasquatch package with manual transmission will now move to model year 2022.

News of the supplier issue comes as the coronavirus pandemic surges in the U.S., with cases, hospitalizations and deaths reaching new records. Other vehicles have experienced production issues or delays due to the pandemic.

General Motors Co., for example, has had to briefly halt production of its Chevrolet Corvette at least twice since October due to supply issues. A two-month North American auto production shutdown in the spring, induced by the pandemic, resulted in three-month delays for three major upcoming Jeep launches planned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

An as-of-yet unnamed new three-row, full-size SUV is expected to begin production in the first quarter of 2021 at a new assembly plant on Detroit’s east side. Manufacturing of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs will follow in the second quarter at Warren Truck. And in the third quarter, the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee is supposed to begin production.

“There's enough industry wide impact from coronavirus and delays that this doesn't reflect on (Ford CEO Jim) Farley or Ford, it reflects a larger industry issue," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iseecars.com. "Or at least it can be presented that way and there's no solid reason to dispute it.”

AutoForecast Solutions LLC was expecting production of the Bronco to begin in late March, but the push until June or July isn't "too much of a delay," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting. The vehicle will be built at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, where it was previously in production for 30 years before the nameplate was retired.

“This is an important product for Ford," said Fiorani. "Whether the quality is there, whether the volume is there is going to be a key to make it a success in what is an extremely competitive market with one other major player.”

The Bronco is Ford's answer to the Jeep Wrangler, which is a best-seller in the U.S. market with over 225,000 vehicles sold in 2019.

The vehicle is an important one for the “built Ford tough” image as well as for profits, Fiorani said, so it's likely a better move to delay the launch now rather than risk quality issues and a recall.

Ford encountered problems with the launch of the redesigned Explorer in 2019 with vehicles coming off the line in Chicago with lose wire harnesses, faulty seating and buggy software. Thousands were shipped to Flat Rock to be repaired.

The Bronco comes with a whole new set of challenges, Fiorani said: “This has removable doors and roof. The parts come off and go on, making sure they don’t rattle. The new technology is going to have to work. It’s a lot to handle."

"When you look at quality ratings, the highest quality vehicles have been on the market for years, because their issues have been ironed out over the years," he said. "When you have a new model, you want to make sure they have all those issues wrapped up before it hits the dealership to make buyers happy.”

Anticipation for the new Bronco has been building for years, ever since Ford discontinued it in 1996. For years, fans and Ford employees alike pushed to get the automaker to resurrect the nameplate. In 2017, Ford confirmed the Bronco would make a return at long last.

The Blue Oval has reported that early demand for the full-size Bronco is strong, with about 190,000 reservations placed so far.

“It became an incredibly powerful brand awareness tool over the last six months since it kind of fully unveiled and all the specifics were released," said Brauer. "There's been a lot of energy and excitement around it.”

The Bronco is a key piece in one of the much significant refreshes of the automaker's portfolio ever. The all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV is in production now, as is the redesigned 2021 F-150 pickup truck.

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

Staff Writer Kalea Hall contributed.