Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co. has unveiled a new off-road vehicle, announced its January results, is racing its Broncos in California, and working to update a plant in South Africa.
As part of a new product blitz, Ford has unveiled the third-generation F-150 Raptor, an off-road desert racing inspired vehicle that can drive over rough terrain and jump. The new vehicle has been updated mechanically as well as technologically.
“Raptor is the original desert truck. We just took it to another level,” says Ali Jammoul, vehicle program director at Ford Performance. “The all-new Raptor splices high-speed off-road performance muscle with advanced technology and connectivity that comes together in a unique Built Ford Tough way.”
The vehicle has a redesigned five-link rear suspension, which delivers more control and power to the ground. The extra-long trailing arms maintain axle position on rough terrain, and the system also features a Panhard rod and 24-inch coil springs. The suspension design and more sophisticated engine management software means the truck can put more torque to the rear wheels for quicker starts, faster acceleration, and better throttle responsiveness.
Readings from suspension height sensors and other sensors change damping rates independently at each corner 500 times per second, the same speed the human brain processes visual information.
The 2021 F-150 Raptor will be assembled at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant and available in showrooms this summer.
In related news, Ford sold 143,578 vehicles in January, an 8.3 percent decrease compared to January 2020. Of these, 74,928 were trucks (an 8.6 percent drop), 60,954 were SUVs (a 7.6 percent increase), and 7,696 were cars (a 57 percent decrease).
The SUV sales were driven by the launch of the all-new Bronco Sport, which sold 8,050 units. Ford total truck sales, including pickups and vans, posted their best January retail sales start since 2008. Mustang retail sales increased 9.7 percent.
The Bronco Sport spent 11 days on dealer lots on average, the new F-150 spent 13 days, and the Mustang Mach-E spent four days.
Ford electrified vehicle sales jumped 18.5 percent in January, due in part to F-150, Escape, and Explorer hybrids.
Ford Performance revealed the all-new Bronco 4600 race vehicle that will run in ULTRA4 stock class beginning this year. ULTRA4 runs from Feb. 2-6 in California.
“Innovating the off-road landscape and competing with Bronco’s higher-speed off-road abilities have always been at the core of Bronco brand’s heritage,” says Dave Rivers, SUV marketing manager for Ford. “Our new Bronco 4600 racers underscore our motorsports heritage and how the all-new 2021 Bronco can be tuned from the showroom floor to compete in the grueling ULTRA4 stock class series.”
The Bronco 4600 builds on the 2021 Bronco two-door SUV with stock powertrain running on a high-performance off-road stability suspension system. Testing of the vehicle begins later this month, with the race vehicles going on to run this year in ULTRA4 alongside factory-backed Bronco 4400 series race vehicles.
The vehicle has a 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 SelectShift 10-speed automatic and second-generation T-6 chassis. It serves as a test bed for Ford licensed accessories and Ford Performance parts.
Bronco 4600 is painted in Race Red, Oxford White, and Velocity Blue. The front design takes inspiration from the 1969 Baja 1000-winning Bronco, with a matte black hood, white upper, and red lower body lines.
In South Africa, Ford has invested $1.05 billion to modernize its manufacturing operations. The investment is the biggest in Ford’s 97-year history in the country.
“This investment will further modernize our South African operations, helping them to play an even more important role in the turnaround and growth of our global automotive operations, as well as our strategic alliance with Volkswagen,” says Dianne Craig, president of international markets group for Ford. “Ranger is one of our highest volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best Ford Ranger ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality.”
The annual installed capacity at the Silverton plant will increase to 200,000 vehicles form 168,000, supporting production of the all-new Ford Ranger pickup truck for the domestic market and export to more than 100 global markets. The plant will also manufacture Volkswagen pickup trucks as part of the Ford-VW alliance.
The expansion is expected to create 1,200 incremental jobs, increasing the local workforce to 5,500 employees and adding an estimated 10,000 new jobs across Ford’s local supplier network, bringing the total to 60,000.
Upgrades will include a new body shop with the latest robotic technology and a high-tech stamping plant, both on-site for the first time. Upgrades will also be made to the box line, paint shop, and final assembly to improve vehicle flow in the plant. Ford will also build new vehicle modification and training centers.
The investment builds on the recently announced Project Blue Oval renewable energy project, which aligns with the company’s global target of using 100-percent locally sourced renewable energy for all its manufacturing plants by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The first phase of the project is underway with the construction of solar carports for 4,200 vehicles at the Silverton plant.
“Our aim is to achieve ‘Island Mode’, taking the Silverton Assembly Plant completely off the grid, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024,” Cavallaro says. “It will be one of the very first Ford plants anywhere in the world to achieve this status.”
Finally, Bronco has debuted three custom-built Bronco ULTRA4 4400 unlimited class race vehicles for the King of the Hammers off-road racing event in California, going on now.
“King of the Hammers inspired us to ensure every production Bronco model delivers the capability, durability, and high-speed off-road experience this growing off-road enthusiast community has been trying to create on their own,” says Mark Grueber, marketing manager for Bronco. “These Bronco 4400 racers underscore our commitment to the Bronco Built Wild capability and innovation in the red-hot off-road racing scene.”
The Bronco 4400s feature a fully custom tubular chassis with off-road tires and long-travel shocks as well as custom 4×4 driveline systems. It represents the return of Bronco 4x4s to sanctioned off-road racing.
“With the Bronco R Race Prototype at the Baja 1000 and the Bronco Sport victory at the Rebelle Rally, the debut of the three Bronco 4400 race teams shows Ford Performance’s growing commitment to Bronco in off-road competition,” says Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports. “These 4×4 vehicles are modeled after the all-new Bronco two- and four-door production SUVs with their combination of high-speed desert running and rock crawling agility.”
Racing veterans included in the Bronco 4400 series teams include Vaughn Gittin Jr., Loren Healy, and Jason Scherer. Healy and Scherer are three-time King of Hammers champions. Each will drive one of the custom-build Broncos.
Other vehicles on display at the race include the Bronco R Race Prototype and the Bronco Sport. The Bronco 4600 was revealed at the event on Wednesday.