Bronco bug: Ford will replace all hardtop roofs to fix quality issue

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. will replace hardtop roofs on all Bronco SUVs due to a quality issues, the automaker said Thursday.

In a letter to customers, the Dearborn-based company said the so-called "molded-in color hard tops" on both two and four-door Broncos have been identified with a quality issue that does not impact performance, but creates an "unsatisfactory appearance when exposed to extreme water and humidity." The Bronco also comes with a soft-top option, and that is not affected.

The 2021 Ford Bronco comes in a variety of colors and 2-or-4-door configurations. Removable doors standard.

The automaker said it doesn't expect replacement roofs until October, at which time updates will be prioritized for oldest units first. The letter was first posted to Bronco 6G forum and reported by Automotive News. A Ford spokesperson affirmed its authenticity and the company has posted an FAQ sheet on its website to assist customers.

"Our customers who already have a Bronco with a hardtop can keep driving them in the wild and we’ll get them a new hardtop roof at no cost as soon as we can," said Ford in a statement. "Unfortunately, for some customers who have ordered two-door and four-door Broncos with a hardtop roof, they will need to wait a bit longer." 

Ford says the issue will impact future production of the Bronco as well as current customers and order holders. Fewer 2021 models will roll off the Wayne Assembly Plant and new Bronco orders will now be for the 2022 model year. Bronco customers who have placed an order but do not yet have a production date can update their 2022 hardtop order — or switch to a 2021 soft-top model.

The roof issue has been a consistent thorn in the side for Bronco, delaying production of 2021 SUVs earlier this year. The removable roof is made by German supplier Webasto, which struggled to equip its Plymouth manufacturing facility due to COVID-related issues. The new, $47.9 million manufacturing plant opened last year to service Ford and other automakers.

Previously, Ford pushed off two other roof options — a modular painted hardtop and dual roof — until 2022 models so Webasto could concentrate on getting molded-in color hardtops and soft tops. The supplier will make the replacement roofs.

TFLCar.com, one of the auto industry’s premier benchmarking publications, experienced issues with a Bronco First Edition model it purchased this year for testing.

The 2021 Ford Bronco features a integrated roof rollbar, removable plastic/cloth roof, and washable interior (with vinyl option).

Andre Smirnov, a writer for TFLCar, said they replaced the roof after experiencing “an annoying rattle near the B-pillar.” TFLCar did not experience fitment or water leaking issues in its tests, though they did notice some discoloration. They replaced the Silver Gray roof (matched with a Cyber Orange body color) with a black soft top acquired from aftermarket accessories supplier Bestop.

Despite its production issues, the wildly-anticipated Bronco has received rave reviews from media and owners for its style, off-road performance, and high-tech features. The Bronco is aimed squarely at Jeep’s Wrangler franchise — and has also spawned a Bronco sub-brand in a Ford Icons brand strategy that includes Mustang and F-150.

The Bronco Sport SUV, also released this year, has been selling like hotcakes. It shares Bronco style cues, but is built not on the Bronco's ladder-frame truck platform, but on the same unibody architecture as the Escape SUV.

The Ford spokesperson said the company is determined to help Bronco customers with the roof issue. Dealers will pick up SUVs in order to make the replacement when the time comes, and Ford has also offered owners Bronco design posters, ride-and-drive experiences, and Ford Pass reward points.

The Bronco hiccups follow the bumpy launch of anther key Ford SUV, the Explorer, in 2019. Bronco owner forums have been buzzing about the roof issue, but it does not seem to have dampened enthusiasm for the SUV. Dealers say orders have been off the charts.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.