Coronavirus-related delays on Webasto roofs prompt Bronco launch setback

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. delayed production of the Bronco SUV after coronavirus-related logistics issues hampered German supplier Webasto’s ability to equip a Michigan facility in time to make the vehicle’s removable roof, according to people familiar with the situation.

Webasto in April of last year said it would invest up to $47.9 million in a new manufacturing plant in Plymouth Township, Mich., creating 441 new jobs. The project, supported by a $2.7 million grant from the state and a property tax abatement from the township, came after the supplier announced new contracts with Ford and other automakers.

Webasto declined to comment, referring questions to Ford. A Ford spokesman declined to name the supplier or specific issue involved in the Bronco delay, referring to the statement it issued last week announcing production would move to summer 2021.

The Detroit Free Press first reported on Monday that the delay stemmed from the vehicle’s roof. Separately Monday, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s global product development chief, told Bloomberg that the automaker has “one particular supplier that was really impacted by COVID because most of their tooling was coming from Europe,” although he declined to name it.

He said Ford wanted to give them “sufficient time to do multiple quality loops to ensure that we deliver with quality.”

Webasto was among the first suppliers to curtail flights earlier this year, halting travel to China in January after two employees in Germany became infected with the virus. Webasto ranks No. 55 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide parts sales to automakers of nearly $4.2 billion in 2019.

Joe McCabe, CEO of AutoForecast Solutions, told Automotive News that the Bronco delay ultimately won’t have a major impact.

“Ford can still build the vehicles,” he said. “Get them ready, and as soon as the tops roll in, they can start strapping them on. That’s the beauty of that vehicle.”

Bronco order banks, which were supposed to open this week, will now open in mid-January for reservation holders to complete their purchase. They have until March 19 to finalize their dealer selection, place their order and agree to a final price. That deadline was originally set for Jan. 31.

The automaker has said it has roughly 165,000 reservations for the Bronco in the form of refundable $100 deposits.

Ford told customers it would provide them with FordPass Rewards points that can be used to purchase accessories as a reward for their patience.

“A lot of people have waited decades for Bronco,” McCabe said. “Those people who are die-hards won’t mind waiting another 60 or so days.”

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