2021 Bronco Hard Tops: Complexities Behind Making Modularity Happen
March 24, 2021
By Dusty Rhodes
Just over two years ago, Webasto Roof Systems announced a $47.9 million investment in a Plymouth Township, Michigan plant to meet the demands of a new contract with Ford Motor Company and FCA. Just minutes from Michigan Assembly Plant, the new facility will be manufacturing modular hard tops for the 2021 Bronco.
Not since the Ford Thunderbird, which ceased production in 2005, has Ford made a vehicle with a removable top. And not since 1996 has Ford made a truck with a removeable roof section.
Webasto, a more than 100–year–old German supplier known for sunroofs, convertibles, and glass roofs — appears to be expanding their open-air roof capabilities with this new Ford contract.
The much-celebrated modularity of the 2021 Bronco is an impressive design breakthrough, but not without its engineering and manufacturing challenges. To deliver an open–air experience to first– and second–row passengers, on both 2– and 4–door models, Ford is offering multiple variations. Reviewing build and price, we count at least six tops that must be sequenced in the plant, each able to keep passengers dry while delivering an acceptable cabin noise at highway speeds.
Keeping all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that news surrounding the removeable tops on Broncos continues to surface as Ford inches closer to Job 1. On Friday, March 19, Ford announced that sound deadening headliners, a $495 option, would be made standard on Mold in Color (MIC) hard tops for the 2021 Bronco. Reservation holders and enthusiasts alike jumped into the forums to speculate on why Ford would be so generous, with the latest news coming on the heels of Ford announcing the delay of painted roofs. With this move, Ford does reduce some complexity in the manufacturing process by eliminating a with/without the sound deadening headliner.
Challenges related to modular roofs in this segment are not unique to Ford. Jeep forums are full of tech tips and advice following the launch of the 2018 JL. Water leaks with the JK Modular Hard Top Freedom Panel were so common that Jeep issued a Technical Service Bulletin to help stop water leaks at the center front, center rear, A-pillar corners or B-pillar corners of Hard Top Freedom Panels.
Whatever the reason for the delay –– the ramp up of a new supplier, an all-new product, or the curse of COVID –– it appears that modular roofs could be the biggest headwind facing Ford and their suppliers on the 2021 Bronco.
For those of you hoping to avoid modular top challenges by opting for the soft top, Bronco Nation has documented some of the key differences you can expect. If you order your Bronco with only a soft top, you will not get the wiring to power the wiper, rear defroster, and the plumbing for the rear washer. For some, this is not a big deal. For others, this is a game changer. To see what you are missing, here are some photos for you to consider.
Late last year, Ford did announce that the dual–top option would remain available for customers wanting both a hard and soft top. Ford has confirmed to Bronco Nation that those selecting the dual option will receive their soft top in a removable carrier shipped inside the vehicle. This carrier is expected to be a safe and compact way to store the top when not in use.
Head over to the forums and let us know what top you are ordering! Are you going with the soft top, the modular hard top… or both? Stay tuned to Bronco Nation for the latest 2021 Bronco news!