Explaining 2021 Bronco Delays, Ford Calls Hardtop an “Achilles Heel”

Explaining 2021 Bronco Delays, Ford Calls Hardtop an “Achilles Heel”

UPDATE 5/28/21: It’s been a frustrating few months for prospective Ford Bronco buyers, who’ve experienced a litany of delays, including plant shutdowns in May related to the semiconductor chip shortage. But the most vexing problem of all remains the removable hardtops supplied by Webasto, which has been hit hard by coronavirus-related delays, according to the Automotive News report cited in the previous update from March. The latest communication with some customers who have ordered Broncos makes it clear the hardtop issue hasn’t been solved.

While Ford has promised owners would receive build dates by May, many haven’t, or have had their orders pushed back. An email sent out today to owners whose vehicles are affected by hardtop delays reveals that a build date will not be forthcoming. The email, provided to MotorTrend by a Bronco customer, states that “we unfortunately can’t provide you with a definitive delivery window.” The message says that future emails will let customers know when their vehicle is scheduled for production, built, and shipped to the dealer. 

According to the email, the hardtop—”our Achilles heel in this launch”—is to blame, with insufficient production capacity to “match up with the actual orders we received.” In return, Ford is offering affected customers free access to its off-road driving experience, known as Bronco Off-Roadeo, as well as other unspecified Bronco events in various areas across the country. Previous updates and the original story from December 2020 regarding the Bronco’s initial delay is below.

UPDATE 3/29/21: Given the various supply chain challenges facing all automakers, perhaps it’s not surprising that certain Ford Broncos have been delayed further as of late March, according to Automotive News. Issues with a supplier of hard tops, Webasto, is causing additional delays to some Broncos, pushing them into the 2022 model year. The issue affects two types of tops for the Bronco: the “modular painted” hard top and the “dual roof” option. According to the report, owners whose Broncos have been delayed will be compensated with $1,000 worth of some combination of Ford Pass rewards points, vehicle accessories, and the like. Hard top customers will get a $450 sound-deadening headliner for free, and all Bronco customers will get a $250 voucher for Ford’s off-road driving school. There is no projected new date for delivery of the affected vehicles.  

We had to wait decades for the return of the Ford Bronco SUV, and now we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer. Ford has confirmed to MotorTrend the coronavirus pandemic and its associated chaos has caused a supply-chain issue that will push the 2021 Bronco launch to the end of next summer rather than this coming spring, as originally planned.

A spokesman told us, “Ford is committed to building Broncos with the quality our customers expect and deserve.” Ford declined to name the affected suppliers.

Customers can still build the Bronco of their dreams on Ford’s website—we did!—but official orders from reservation holders are now not being accepted until the middle of January, a delay of approximately a month. Those orders will now be able to be finalized through March 19 rather than at the previous January deadline. (If you’re one of the lucky few who has a reservation—or even if you’re not—check out what to expect in our First Ride review.)

While the big-boy Bronco is delayed, Ford’s launch of the Bronco Sport—a smaller, front-drive-based off-roader that uses the same architecture as the Escape—has been unaffected, and those SUVs are at dealers now.

This story was originally published on December 4, 2020, and has been updated with the latest information.

Houston’s big hit: Sense of normalcy

HOUSTON — As Jeep Gladiators, Grand Cherokees and Wranglers conquered hills and uneven terrain set up inside the expansive NRG Center, it almost felt like old times.

That feeling of normalcy was among the biggest attractions for visitors to this month’s Houston Summer Auto Show, one of the first new-vehicle expos since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago. So was Camp Jeep, a show staple that draws long lines and resembles an amusement park attraction.

There were new rules, a reminder that the world is still coping with a crisis as auto shows begin to reemerge, meaning riders got the Jeep experience only from the back seat as masked drivers whisked them around the bumpy setup. Once the rides ended, cleaning crews disinfected the Jeeps and nearby Rams, which had a test track of their own, before the next passengers hopped in.

“We’re pumped to be back,” said Benny Munguia, a Camp Jeep track manager who was shuttling people around the course and felt safe with the additional protocols that were put in place. “I’ve been doing it a long time, and I missed driving a lot.”

The Houston Automobile Dealers Association, which runs the show, had to overcome a barrage of obstacles befitting Camp Jeep, including evolving public health guidelines and the microchip shortage that prompted some automakers to skip the event because they lacked inventory to show. In some cases, local dealers stepped up to represent their brands with independent displays.

Organizers also had just a few months to put the whole thing together. The May dates they had been aiming for were originally blocked by the popular Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but when that multiweek event was canceled, the dealer association sprang into action.

Some automakers, including Kia, Stellantis and Subaru, committed immediately. Others didn’t sign on until just before the mid-April deadline.

With extra floor space to fill, the association expanded the five-day show to include boats, RVs and fishing and hunting knives. It also added “summer” to the name to reflect the move from the show’s usual January timing.

Back in March, planners thought they would need to check attendees’ temperatures and require face masks. They attended an auto auction to see how the temperature checks worked, said RoShelle Salinas, executive vice president of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. It was an extra expense the group was prepared to take on, but improving conditions and the ongoing vaccine rollout ultimately made it unnecessary.

The mask requirement was another wild card that shifted at the last minute. The show planned to require masks until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said May 13 that people who were fully vaccinated could ditch them in most situations.

So the show said masks would be recommended but not required. Many attendees wore masks anyway.

The CDC’s updated guidance relieved a potential headache in trying to enforce mask-wearing, said Wyatt Wainwright, association president.

“For us to be able to put on this summer show, it’s been amazing, and all of the topsy-turvy, all of the fears of people not understanding how to do it, and how to do it safely, I think we did it,” Wainwright told Automotive News. “We held to the total number we can have in the building to the capacity limits yet didn’t infringe on anybody having a great experience.”

Show visitors were thankful that the event returned and looked forward to more normal activities.

Although the show was mostly intact, some traditions were missing. The ride-and-drive lounge that features 80 models for people to try out was gone this year because brands were limiting drive opportunities, but the show plans for it to return next January. Ford and Subaru held their own ride-and-drives.

James Berry, a Houston resident who attends the show every year, said he had no qualms about going. “All of the trends are going down,” said Berry, who is vaccinated.

He thought the Ford Mustang Mach-E was “slick” and enjoyed the Ram display because he was considering buying a pickup.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “Even if you’re not in the market for a car, it’s cool to see everything.”

Jared Richards of Houston said he wasn’t worried about the pandemic. The biggest eye-catchers for him were the Ford Bronco, the Mach-E and the Chevrolet Corvette.

“If you feel like getting the vaccine, you should get it; if you don’t, you shouldn’t get it,” Richards said. “I think it’s a personal preference.”

Another spectator, Eric Gay, said it was time to get back to normal life.

“I’m glad they could actually squeeze it in this year,” Gay said. “It would be nice if they had more selection out, but it’s still good to see the new models.”

The show drew around 40,000 visitors, down from the typical 100,000, but Salinas was encouraged, considering the circumstances. In addition to the pandemic, she figures rainy weather and the unfamiliar date stunted attendance.

Salinas said developing plans for ticket sales was a roller-coaster ride. The venue initially told organizers they couldn’t have ticket windows open, which would have been a tough break for a show that sells 90 percent of its tickets on-site.

But the parameters eventually shifted, and nine ticket windows were allowed. Attendees also had the option to buy tickets online in advance or by using their phone to scan a QR code on signs at the arena.

Salinas said the association began meeting with organizers from other shows around the country last fall to see how they were handling the challenges in their areas. The Houston show, when it was planning to have a mask mandate, used footage of masked visitors to the Oklahoma City show in March for TV ads to help set expectations.

Dave Sloan, general manager of the Chicago Auto Show, which is planning a mid-July event, said he had been conversing with other show organizers during the pandemic. He said it was “great news” when the Central Florida International Auto Show in Orlando happened in December and that he gathered feedback from automakers that participated to see what worked for them.

At the moment, Sloan is planning for the Chicago show to mandate masks. The event will be scaled down to a little over half of its usual 1 million square feet but will add outdoor activities, such as a Bronco course, that it never had because of the winter weather. The show normally takes place in February.

“I think we’ve all been learning from each other,” said Salinas, adding that she hoped “people can learn and use our show as an example for their own.”

2022 Kia Seltos Becomes One With the Dark Side

2022 Kia Seltos Becomes One With the Dark Side

We’ll stop saying good things about Kia as soon as the brand stops making fantastic vehicles. Until then, the South Korean automaker is the juggernaut that seemingly cannot be stopped. The Telluride, Sorento, K5, Stinger, and Soul are all great to drive, easy to live with, and solid values. Predictably, the Seltos follows that trend. Despite arriving on our shores last year, Kia’s little SUV gets a number of small but noteworthy updates for 2022.

Of note, all 2022 Seltos models now come standard with forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and automatic high beam headlights. When we tested the Seltos against the Mazda CX-30 and Chevy Trailblazer, we were surprised at just how smart Kia’s lane keep assist system is—it’s so good, in fact, it all but mimics a lane centering system.

In addition to a load of new safety goodies, the Seltos also moves to the dark side. Not necessarily because it wants to rule the galaxy, but more because it’s gained a taste for some dark accents. The Nightfall Edition is new for 2022 and brings special 18-inch matte-black wheels, a black grille, roof rails, and side sills. Nightfall Edition models also come exclusively with all-wheel drive, get a flat-bottom steering wheel, and the option to add a purple-hued (or Plum) interior.

Along with welcoming the latest iteration of Kia’s badge, the cheapest Seltos also sees its cost of entry rise by $500 for 2022. The base all-wheel-drive Kia Seltos LX starts at $23,665, while the front-drive S starts at $23,865 (plan on dropping an extra $1,500 to add AWD to the S). The prior Turbo trim, however, gets the ax for 2022, as it’s effectively replaced by the Nightfall Edition. The Seltos EX, Nightfall Edition, and top-of-the-line SX trims, meanwhile, each start at $26,965, $27,865, and $29,165, respectively.

The addition of more active safety features, new badges, and a slick Nightfall Edition trim arguably make the 2022 Seltos an even better value and looker than its 2021 counterpart—a model we already thought was a good value and looker in the first place.

The Boring Company LVCC Loop capacity exceeds 4400 passengers per hour [Video]

The Boring Company LVCC Loop capacity exceeds 4400 passengers per hour [Video]

The Boring Company’s (TBC) test drives for its Las Vegas Convention Center Loop (LVCC) exceeded 4,400 passengers per hour, according to results revealed on May 29. Steve Hill, the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), announced the results of TBC’s LVCC Loop test run with real passengers.

Following Hill’s announcement, The Boring Company elaborated that the LoopSim—loop simulation—predicted the LVCC Loop could handle 4,450 passengers per hour (pph) within a 1% observed value for a V3 configuration with 62 Tesla vehicles. TBC seemed happy with the results.

“So this was a good anchor for our model,” TBC noted. “[The LoopSim] predicts 5050 for V4 at the Convention Center. And 55,000 pph for the full Vegas Loop!”

TBC’s comments on the results of its first LVCC Loop test drives suggest that the tunneling company will continue to improve the Loop’s capacity over time. The Boring Company still has to develop some key factors in the LVCC Loop, including the introduction of autonomous operations. TBC signed an agreement with the LVCVA board to implement autonomous operations to the LVCC Loop “no later than December 31 2021. “

Some people have pointed out that a bus or subway could transport more people within an hour than the LVCC Loop. However, TBC supporters argued that the fare for Elon Musk’s underground people-mover is cheaper compared to traditional transportation.

TBC tunnels may also be cheaper to construct than subway systems and other infrastructure that cities, towns, etc., might consider to reduce congestion in certain areas. For instance, Mayor Francis Suarez from Miami noted that TBC quoted $30 million for a tunnel under the Miami River. In comparison, the Miami-Dade County transit officials estimated a $900 million price tag for a tunnel about 2-miles long for the same project.

The Boring Company also points out that its transit system could get passengers to their destination much faster than the subway.

“Loop is an express public transportation system that resembles an underground highway more than a subway system,” TBC explained on its website.

“If a subway line had 100 stops, a train would typically stop at each station, so the trip between Stop 1 and Stop 100 would be long. In contrast, Loop passengers travel directly to their destination, anywhere between Stop 1 to Stop 100, without stopping at the intermediate stations. Also, the express system allow[s] Loop vehicles to travel faster than conventional subway cars (up to 150 mph vs. up to 65 mph).”

Watch a video of The Boring Company’s LVCC Loop test drives below!

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The Boring Company LVCC Loop capacity exceeds 4400 passengers per hour [Video]

GM signals an improved outlook for chip supply

DETROIT — General Motors’ plan to restart most of its plants affected by the industry’s microchip shortage within about a month shows that the crisis might be starting to ebb.

“It does suggest that things are improving — an early indicator that the industry maybe is starting to get on the other side of this,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting at LMC Automotive.

GM last week said only one plant — Fairfax Assembly in Kansas — would remain down because of the chip shortage beyond July 5. Fairfax, which has been down since Feb. 8, builds the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac XT4. CAMI Assembly in Ontario, which builds the Chevy Equinox and also shut down Feb. 8, is scheduled to reopen June 14 but pause for a previously scheduled two-week summer break in July. GM’s midsize pickup plant in Wentzville, Mo., went offline last week until mid-July for a model-year changeover.

GM’s aggressive restart plans affirm the bullishness the automaker showed this month when it reported first-quarter net income of $3 billion. Its projection of a swift rebound from the chip crisis contrasted with Ford Motor Co.’s warning that profits would be limited for the rest of the year.

GM’s optimism could be driven by early planning and a potential outsourcing of chips, analysts said.

Still, the automaker and its dealers continue to cope with a drastic inventory shortage. Randy Wise Chevrolet in Flint, Mich., had only three unsold new vehicles in stock last week. The store, which usually sells 110 to 125 new vehicles a month, expects to receive just 21 more in June, 21 in July and 38 in August, said General Manager Patrick Daly.

As of Friday, May 28, GM had lost 272,292 vehicles from its North American production schedule because of the crisis, according to AutoForecast Solutions. That number is slightly lower than the firm’s estimate for GM a week earlier.

The automaker has maintained production at plants that build its popular and profitable full-size SUVs and pickups, opting to cut production at plants that build sedans and crossovers instead.

The restarting of those lower-margin vehicle plants could signal that GM has turned a corner.

“They were doing a lot of scenario planning early on” while other automakers were waiting for the situation to play out, Schuster said. “Did that lead to a better position and the ability to find a [chip] source? I can’t say for sure, but it seems like all of these things played out in a coordinated way.”

Other automakers also are confident that a recovery could begin in the third quarter.

“As we move into summer, it’ll get tougher and tougher, and then we come out of it,” said Michael Colleran, senior vice president of U.S. marketing and sales at Nissan. “We’re pretty bullish.”

Nissan is prioritizing high-volume models such as the Sentra and Rogue for the limited supply of microchips.

“It’s a bit of a Rubik’s Cube,” Colleran said, referring to allocation decisions. “You have to really hand-manage this. Every day, it’s a firefight.”

In early May, GM CEO Mary Barra told Bloomberg that the automaker was working on a number of long-term strategies and new processes to “make sure we’re never in this situation again.”

She added that GM planned chip supplies for this year based on expected demand.

“We were very clear last year on what we thought demand was going to be this year in the chips that we had ordered. We’re continuing to work with the supply base on that,” she said.

When the chip crisis began hampering the industry in the first quarter, experts expected that it would take six months to establish new plants for automotive-grade chip production, said Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions.

“We are falling into that window that new supplies of chips could have been accessed if they were located when this whole thing started,” Fiorani said. GM “could be finding new supplies at this point.”

GM declined to elaborate on its sourcing strategy or say whether it had paid a premium to access more chips. The chip crisis remains fluid globally, GM spokesman David Barnas said, but the supply chain team has made strides to mitigate the impact.

Consultancy AlixPartners estimates that the chip shortage could cost the auto industry $110 billion in lost revenue this year, forecasting a net production loss of 3.9 million vehicles.

GM won’t be able to make up all the volume it has lost, Schuster said, but “they’re going to do whatever they can to make up as much as they can to refill that pipeline that’s in deep need of vehicles.”

Urvaksh Karkaria contributed to this report.