As Ford Grapples With 2020 Explorer and Lincoln Aviator Issues, One Reader Doesn't Like What He Discovered

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
as ford grapples with 2020 explorer and lincoln aviator issues one reader doesnt

You read all about Ford’s midsize crossover issues last week, perhaps with great dismay. According to an extensive report, serious and sometimes hazy quality defects have kept thousands of 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators away from dealer lots.

It seems the automaker is hauling vehicles directly from Chicago Assembly to a hastily-arranged fix-it space at Flat Rock Assembly in Michigan — a stopover for quality control and repair on the way to the dealer. Some vehicles reportedly wait up to a month for a fix.

Bad news for Ford, but is it also bad news for those awaiting these two critically important models? Surely having these issues remedied before delivery to dealer lots is better than no fix at all? Certainly, it’s a better outcome for the automaker and buyer than the alternative. And yet, after visiting his local Ford dealer, one reader walked away shaking his head.

TTAC reader Mike Freed stopped at a Ford store to take a gander at a new Aviator on Friday, only to leave disappointed in the perceived quality of Lincoln’s elegantly-styled midsizer. Isolated example or an indication that quality’s not up to snuff in Chicago? A wider pool of subjects is required. All we can tell you, with pictures, is what our photog friend discovered in a walkaround of a 2020 Aviator.

The list of obvious flaws was extensive, and would be cause for concern had they appeared on a vehicle costing half as much (Aviators start a tick above $51k USD). A misaligned door that looked like it came out of Oakville Assembly (anyone who’s ever looked at the rear doors of an Edge or Nautilus know what we mean). Poorly-adhered side trim that could be lifted with the gentle touch of a finger. Wonky B-pillar panels. An ill-fitting liftgate. A rear corner window pushed out at the top end. Plenty of orange peel in the paint.

Back up a dozen yards and this Aviator likely looks pristine, but premium car buyers tend to get much closer to their prospective rides before signing over sixty or seventy large. And, while the exterior flaws don’t necessarily speak to the quality of the interior (our reader did not enter the vehicle) or the drivetrain, it does whisper to a consumer that unseen trouble could lie in wait. Last week’s report did detail issues with the transmission, actually. Specifically, the unit’s difficulty in sensing when the vehicle in in “park.”

The Aviator and its Explorer platform mate are high-volume, generously priced vehicles that stand to make Ford a lot of money. The Aviator in particular is seen as Lincoln’s comeback vehicle — a model Dearborn hopes will cement the brand’s status in the premium field and compel Lexus and Audi buyers to reconsider their decision to turn away from domestic luxury. This is not a hastily-prepared entry-level model brought in from another market as a gap-filler or stepping stone.

One vehicle sitting on a lot does not a reputation make, but these photos, placed in the context of widely reported issues plaguing the company’s new crossovers, should serve as a red flag to company brass that something’s not right. A sign that they’ve failed to deliver what they promised. Even worse for Ford, it will be a red flag for buyers who wander into a dealer.

If Lincoln wants to beat foreign rivals at their own game, it has to boast comparable build quality, right down to the trim adhesion. Styling, technology, and power only goes far, as the Alfa Romeo saga aptly demonstrates.

[Image: Mike Freed, Ford]

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  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Sep 25, 2019

    Wait for the all clear to come before buying the Explorer and Aviator! I was planning on buying the Aviator right now but will wait till Spring to see if anything is improved. However, I could save around $15K and go with the Hyundai Palisade.

  • CombiCoupe99 CombiCoupe99 on Oct 05, 2019

    I'll bet anything that the union guys are somehow going to blame corporate for this. They will tell you that they are being treated unfairly or that conditions are no good - thus justifying their poor workmanship. Get these jobs out of "victim territory" and send them to where folks want to do quality work.

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  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
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