Ford Is Launching a De Facto Take Over of The Webasto Plant In Plymouth, Mi
As you probably know, the biggest concern among major car manufacturers has been a widespread computer chip shortage-- it has been the talk of the industry throughout 2021.
Almost all of the manufacturers have seen a rise in demand for their product line, yet at the same time can't produce these vehicles due to the lack of semiconductor chips required for their completion. We've already covered this topic, but for Ford, there has been another lingering problem that hasn't been as publicized as the chip situation. Unfortunately, the modern-day Bronco saga has been filled with production delays and issues -- almost all of them beyond Ford’s control.
We all know that Ford did a tremendous job designing, engineering, and marketing the new Bronco, which resulted in enormous hype and demand. But now, it's time to deliver on the promise and start producing and completing these highly anticipated and legendary SUVs.
The latest problem that Ford is facing isn't chip-related, and it takes us back to 2020. If you recall, the first production delay of the new-gen Bronco was connected to the hardtop manufacturer Webasto which had problems with plastic roofs. The most direct reason generally cited for that delay was an overall materials shortage due to the whole COVID-19 situation. In reality, the real causation stemmed from quality problems -- Ford just wasn’t satisfied with Webasto's finished products.
Unofficially, the rumor is that Webasto roofs were prone to bending, which lead to leaking, and that's something that Ford simply could not tolerate.
At the same time, the demand for hardtop options, on both the two and four-door Bronco, surprised both Ford and Webasto, and both companies have come to realize that the production capacity of Webasto’s Plymouth, Michigan plant will be insufficient to meet this demand in a timely fashion.
The German company opened the plant in 2019, concentrating on scale production for major manufacturers, including Ford.
While there aren't many available details, we do know that Ford sent its team of engineers and production strategists to Plymouth to address the several problems pertaining to these plastic hardtops. In the last six weeks, dozens of Ford’s workers were sent to the Webasto plant in a significant push to meet production goals and salvage the 2021 Bronco model year.
Apparently, Webasto itself was unable to address all these issues on its own, so Ford needed to jump in, not just with engineers but also with substantial funding. In a recent Ford memo, it was revealed that millions of dollars will ultimately be required in order to resolve these supply chain issues.
The good news is that these quality problems have been sorted and the assembly lines are slowly entering full-scale production. However, the bad news is that this will not happen overnight and Ford’s people are also addressing issues regarding assembly and management problems while re-organizing the factory altogether. At the moment, things are looking promising, but it's too early to expect Ford to make any official statement.
Needless to say, Ford is not happy with the Webasto situation, and it looks like the company is going so far as to consider vacating its contract and even initiating a high-profile lawsuit, which will definitely cripple Bronco production efforts in the near future.
Ford has wisely chosen to invest time, money, and human capital to put this saga to an end -- hopefully -- and add the last piece to the Bronco puzzle in order to get on with its plans. The plastic roof is an essential part of the Bronco’s appeal, so it's easy to see why Ford is so eager to resolve this problem.