When Ford announced that they will be offering over 200 accessories for the Bronco when it hits dealer showrooms, they made it clear they expect people to customize the SUV. And while the turbocharged powertrains that underpin the lineup may seem like a tempting place to look for extra performance, it appears that tuning the Ford Bronco may prove to be a futile effort.
The modern ECUs that control all of the techno-wizardry that cars employ today are extremely complicated. In order to prevent any bad actors from messing with any of these computer systems with malcontent, companies have started employing serious cybersecurity and encryption measures. As a result, this has made it much more difficult for aftermarket companies to do any sort of engine tuning.
Like other vehicles that allow OTA updates, like the C8 Corvette from General Motors, the aftermarket could be stonewalled from accessing the ECU from its cybersecurity measures. Thereby rendering any proper tuning efforts impossible.
“We have to walk carefully there because a lot of the systems interface with each other and the aftermarket doesn’t always think about those interfaces,” said Bronco Program Manager Jeff Seaman in an interview with MC&T. “We’re going to have to work with our strategic partners and make sure that they provide things to the customer that are certainly robust.”
The key here is that Ford is going to have to work in tandem with the aftermarket when it comes to any sort of ECU-related modification for the Bronco. Thanks to a previous interview with Ford’s Head of Icons Dave Pericak, we know that the Blue Oval is working with SEMA to try and find a solution for this problem. What this actually is going to look like in practice however has yet to be seen.
“There’s a SEMA agreement where we authorize third parties to make engine calibrations and updates,” said Seaman. “I think this is definitely an opportunity to explore as we go forward. We’ve got the OTA architecture in place for the Bronco, but how that works with third party developers vs doing it in house and internal updates is still something to see how it will work.”
So folks, it appears that we are going to have to wait to see what the future holds for the Ford Bronco and the aftermarket that will grow to support it. It will be a real shame if the SUV is limited by its ECU, but that is something we all may have to deal with moving forward. Perhaps only a select few tuning companies will be given full-access by Ford, though we wouldn’t want to be the one to have to make those phone calls.