Report: Widespread 2020 Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator Quality Issues Has Automaker Scrambling

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

There’s no doubt the next-generation Ford Explorer and reborn Lincoln Aviator are very important vehicles for Ford Motor Company. Advanced, stylish, and packing lofty MSRPs and projected volume that’s sure to make the Blue Oval tons of cash, the worst thing that could occur to these vehicles is a botched rollout served with a side of quality-related stigma.

It seems that’s exactly what’s happening.

While the two platform mates, just now appearing on dealer lots, have already been subject to recalls related to manually-adjusted seatbacks, missing manual park release covers, and instrument panel issues, a number of other problems is keeping Explorers and Aviators away from buyers. Ford is reportedly working overtime to fix the unspecified defects.

According to dealers and Ford sources who spoke to the Detroit Free Press, the mysterious issues has forced the automaker to ship new Explorers and Aviators directly from their Chicago Assembly Plant home base to Michigan’s Flat Rock Assembly for examination and fixing.

The issues are apparently numerous, with dealers citing “manufacturing issues” and not much else. In the case of one dealership, customers who put down pre-order cash have grown frustrated over their missing vehicle, forcing the store to “pacify” them. Some vehicles have been pulled from dealer lots for a trip to Flat Rock, one dealer said. It seems vehicles and information is in short supply, even for those tasked with selling the new models.

Jim Seavitt, president of Village Ford in Dearborn, told Freep, “We’ve been experiencing this for some time. We got 10 in last week and have 18 in all. We should have far more.”

Meanwhile, a worker in Flat Rock said the assembly plant, normally home to just Mustangs and Continentals, sometimes takes in thousands of new Explorers and Aviators at a time. “The teams doing the fixing are working nonstop, 24/7,” the employee added. As soon as the fixes are complete, the repaired vehicles head out to dealer lots.

While Ford remains mum on the issues, a Flat Rock worker involved with the fixes cited a myriad of problems that would leave new owners pissed. These include A/C systems that only blow hot air (Explorer and Aviator), chassis issues requiring an X-ray diagnosis (Explorer), transmission issues related to the “park” function and fluid leaks (Explorer), and self-levelling suspensions stuck in “failure” mode (Aviator).

Photos sent to Freep show a slew of Explorers and Aviators resting outside Flat Rock. One Ford source called the situation “incredibly serious,” adding, “There is no end in sight. Physical changes are being made at [Flat Rock Assembly] in anticipation of additional parts being required moving forward into winter. Parts are currently being stored in temporary tents behind the plant.”

As bad as deferred deliveries and troubling news reports can be for a company, handing over vehicles with serious defects would be far worse for consumer satisfaction, loyalty, and overall brand appeal. The Aviator is widely regarded as Lincoln’s must-win comeback vehicle, while the Explorer remains the brand’s bread and butter.

There’s also the issue of cost. Ford, currently in the midst of a global streamlining effort, is reportedly pulling employees from other Midwestern plants to help out at Flat Rock, with overtime and pricey truck shipping being the norm, not the exception. Such are the numbers of ailing vehicles, Ford Performance partner Roush has reportedly stepped in to handle some of the volume. Some vehicles have to wait at the plant for a month before receiving a fix, one source said, while some vehicles apparently aren’t capable of an economic repair.

Just how deeply the issue will cut into Ford’s bottom line remains to be seen.

[Images: Ford]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Sep 14, 2019

    It seems that the old saying: "Wait till the 3rd year of production before buying a new model" turn out to be the right thing to do with American made automobiles. Things have not change at the "big" three since the 1970s it seems from Ford's Explorer/Aviator reliability efforts! It the same old way of doing stuff! They just cover it up with marketing spin and being quiet about it; by paying off the media until they cannot hold them back because the wave of consumers complaints pile up and the national media has to do something in terms of reporting!

  • Akear Akear on Sep 14, 2019

    There has no been anything like this since the GM X-car recalls of the early 80s.

    • Kenn Kenn on Sep 14, 2019

      I recall GM's marketing effort for the new Citation, proudly proclaiming (if I recall correctly): "Tested over 7 Million Miles!" If that claim was anything close to being true, then they knew exactly where all the problems lay, while putting-off fixing them.

  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.