This is a post that I’d rather not write. As a Detroiter, in an ideal world I’d rather that the domestic auto manufactures made tons of money selling great cars. I’m willing to take an unvarnished look at them, after all, those of us who live here are more likely to have some kind of personal interaction with the auto industry than most folks who live elsewhere, but I don’t feel the need to gratuitously slam GM, Ford and Chrysler the way some people do. I just want to be fair. In addition, it grates on me when people accuse TTAC of having a bias against those three Detroit based car companies. Sure, we’re not cheerleaders, but the writers and editors at TTAC don’t have conference calls or Skype sessions where we choose which of the domestic automakers we’ll slam that day. So it’s with some reluctance that I have to note what I considered to be a couple of quality control issues with the all new Lincoln MKZ, now finally arriving in dealerships after a botched launch.
It was FoMoCo itself that raised the issue of quality control concerning the new MKZ. In explaining why dealers didn’t have cars that were heavily promoted with Super Bowl level marketing, Ford said that their Hermosillo, Mexico plant, which assembles the MKZ and the Ford Fusion, couldn’t keep up with a quality control procedure that was originally intended to prevent some of the quality stumbles that have plagued Ford launches of late. Every single MKZ was supposed to be rigorously inspected. The issue was compounded by supplier issues and missing parts. When Hermosillo couldn’t keep up, uninspected cars were shipped to the Flat Rock, Michigan facility for those inspections, end-of-line repairs and installation of those parts. A while back Ford announced that all of those issues were resolved, that the Hermosillo plant was now up to speed and that the pipeline was full and that dealers had normal inventory levels.
The inventory announcement seemed to be accurate, at least as far as it looked at Dearborn’s Jack Demmer Lincoln, the closest Lincoln store to FoMoCo’s headquarters. I have to drive my mom to regular appointments at her ophthalmologist and I drive by the Demmer shop going and coming. Since I hate sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms, I usually hang out at the nearby Automotive Hall of Fame or the Henry Ford Museum, but I’d been to both of those recently so I decided to check out the Lincoln dealership.
I counted at least 40 MKZs in the main lot. A salesman told me they had about 100 in stock and were expecting another 100 in the next week or so. There appeared to be a nice mix of powertrains and prices ranging from 2.0 L Ecoboost FWD models in the mid to upper 30s and fully loaded 3.7 L V6 AWD models in the low 50s. I think it’s a great looking car, though I think the interior of the competing Cadillac ATS is better executed. For some reason the MKZ’s interior designers gave it downward sloping arm rests, which made reaching the window and mirror controls a stretch. Concerning the exterior at first I thought the stylish rear end would mean less than ideal accessibility to the trunk, but when the deck lid is up the opening is surprisingly large.
It was when I was checking out the trunk that I noticed the first disquieting thing regarding QC. I lifted up the carpeted panel to check out the spare tire and I was struck by the sloppy application of seam sealer. Not only was it sloppy, it appeared to be overabundant. It was particularly noticeable because its brown color contrasted sharply with the car’s silver paint. In recent years we’ve gotten used to small QC details being attended to, little things like avoiding overspray or preventing adhesives from oozing out of joints. The seam sealer on the MKZ reminded me of how things were 40 years ago in the U.S. car industry. Actually, the only other recent cars that I’ve noticed with such sloppy body sealer were the one’s from China that BYD had on display a while back at the NAIAS.
Overgenerous application of body sealer underneath a cover in the trunk is one thing, the other quality issue was literally right in front of my eyes as the cars sat on the showroom floor. There were a handful of MKZs in the showroom, but none had the model’s distinguishing optional retractable glass roof. I’m not very tall, just 5’6″, so the roofline is not that far from eye level for me. When I was checking out the cars to see if they had glass roofs, looking at the steel roofs from the back of the car I noticed that at the tail end of the roof panel where the sheet metal is bent 90 degrees to create the well into which the back glass sits, at the corner where the roof panel meets the side rail the finish on the metalwork is not very neatly done. I don’t know if it’s too much body filler or poorly ground welds, but it was noticeable on every single MKZ without a glass roof. Some were worse than others, and the problem seemed to be more on the passenger side than on the driver’s side but it was hard not to miss. When I realized it was on every steel roof MKZ, I took a few pics with my cell phone. Even without high resolution photos, you can see what I’m talking about.
It’s not like the glass roofed cars are perfect. The gaps between the glass panels are much wider than we’ve become used to with bodywork, at least a half inch or more and those gaps are filled with rubber that’s dark grey but still contrasts a bit with the deeply tinted glass. Maybe I’m being picky but neither that rubber trim on the glass roofed cars, nor the metal finishing on the others look like they belong on $50,000+ cars.
Since the sloppy metalwork appeared to be on all the MKZs that I saw that had metal roofs, if it really is a problem, and not me just being picky, then it’s a problem with process or design.
A reader once took issue with how I characterized a piece of loose wood trim on the car as a “glaring” issue in my review of the Chrysler 300 . I used that word because in an otherwise nearly flawless car, when wood starts falling off the dashboard, right in front of your face, the issue is indeed glaring. Other than the two issues that I’ve mentioned here, the fit and finish of the MKZs were fine, and for the reasons mentioned at the head of this post, I want to like the MKZ, but it’s hard to ignore a problem when it’s looking at you right in the eye.
Disclaimer: I haven’t checked the metalwork on all of the competing cars in the MKZ’s class. Maybe they have flaws too. I didn’t notice anything glaring on the ATS in the Cadillac showroom next door.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS