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Ford Bronco tuning may be a bear

The aftermarket could have a really rough go with the Bronco, thanks to stepped up ECU security.

2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport First Ride
The Bronco may be retro, but it's a modern vehicle through and through.

The 2021 Ford Bronco isn't the first vehicle to take cybersecurity seriously, and it won't be the last. But that means aftermarket companies will likely have a tough time if they want to tinker with the off-road SUV's engine.

Speaking to Muscle Cars & Trucks, Ford's Bronco Program Manager Jeff Seaman said in an interview last week Ford will need to "walk carefully" when it comes to protecting various interfaces and allowing third-party companies access to the Bronco's innards. Seaman added the automaker will have to work with partners to ensure aftermarket companies provide "robust" products.

Hardened security systems have been making waves recently, notably with the 2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray. Modern engine control units handle an incredible number of tasks, and as these cars become more connected with over-the-air updates, automakers need to strengthen cybersecurity to keep potential hackers at bay. This comes at the expense of a relatively simple system for companies to bypass and tune various parts of the powertrain to squeeze more power from an engine and beyond.

Case in point: We haven't seen any company offer any sort of bonkers performance upgrades for the Corvette. There have been announcements regarding intent to do so, but nothing major is actually available. It's going to take more automaker-aftermarket work to make things a reality, and that means automakers can "pick favorites," so to speak.

Ford didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment.

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