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The 2021 Ford Bronco gets an official debut date

More than three years ago, Ford announced it was bringing back the Bronco after years of customer requests and speculation.

The mid-size SUV that ended its 30-year production run in 1996 was supposed to debut in March. Then COVID-19 happened and well everything got cancelled, including numerous vehicle reveals.

The reborn Ford Bronco will finally emerge to the media and public — beyond what we’ve already seen thanks to lots of leaked photos — on July 9. Ford announced the date in a post Saturday on Instagram.

Why has TechCrunch dared write about the Ford Bronco? Let’s ignore that it’s a Saturday and I’m trying to bring a little light into everyone’s lives for a fleeting moment or that the Ford Bronco was my childhood companion on numerous camping trips in Baja and the first vehicle I ever drove off road.

The Ford Bronco might be a classic. But it will certainly embody some new fangled tech, hence our interest. The Bronco is also part of Ford’s previously announced plans to invest $750 million and add 2,700 new direct jobs at its Wayne, Mich. factory. The Ford Bronco and an all-new Ford Ranger will be assembled at the Wayne factory, which will also house and a new modification center to support autonomous vehicles.

Expect Ford to produce a family of Bronco vehicles, including a smaller Bronco Sport and plug-in hybrid. Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed during the company’s 2019 shareholder meeting that a hybrid would be part of the mix.

The Bronco is going to be available in two- and four-door configurations. There should be lots of opportunity for buyers to customize their Bronco. For instance, opting for removable doors and roof. The expectation is that the Bronco will have a body-on-frame chassis and be offered with 2.3-liter turbo four and maybe even a V6. Although it’s unclear if the smaller Sport will have a different architecture.

Stay tuned.

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Ford to offer COVID-19 testing for symptomatic workers as part of reopening plan

Ford said Saturday it will test hourly and salaried employees with suspected COVID-19 symptoms in four metro areas where it has major operations as it prepares to reopen facilities this month.

The automaker is expected to resume production and some operations at its North America facilities May 18. Aside from factory workers, Ford is also bringing back about 12,000 employees whose jobs cannot be done remotely such as vehicle testing and design. The company’s parts distribution centers reopened in North America on May 11.

Ford said it will initially use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which identifies if someone is actively infected. PCR tests are used to detect the presence of viral RNA, not the presence of the antibodies, which are the body’s immune response.

The automaker said it has signed contracts with health systems to conduct the testing. Ford will work with Beaumont Health for testing in Southeast Michigan, the University of Louisville Health in Louisville, Liberty Hospital in the Kansas City area and the University of Chicago Medical Center and UChicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital in the Chicago area.

Collectively, Ford employs more than 72,000 people in Southeast Michigan, Louisville, Kansas City and Chicago.

The contracts will enable Ford to test employees with suspected symptoms with a goal of getting results back within 24 hours, according to the automaker’s medical director Dr. Walter Talamonti.

Testing results will be simultaneously shared with Ford doctors to help identify other employees who might have been in close contact with an infected worker. Those employees will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The company is working on expanding testing, Ford CTO Ken Washington said in a statement. Washington added that Ford is looking into voluntary antibody testing in the future for its employees.

Ford released May 1 a back-to-work playbook that describes the protocols that it will put in place once production at its factories resume. Employees will have to complete a self-certification health check daily and have their temperature scanned upon arrival to any Ford facility. Face masks will also be required. Safety glasses with side shields or face shields will be required when jobs don’t allow for social distancing.

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