By on September 13, 2019

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.

Image: Ford

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.”

Image: Ford

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]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

88 Comments on “Report: Widespread 2020 Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator Quality Issues Has Automaker Scrambling...”


  • avatar
    chris724

    “pulling employees from other Midwestern plants to help out at Flat Rock”

    Why don’t they just build them correctly in Chicago to begin with?

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Perhaps, “Because, Chicago.”.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        The Chicago plant is modern and efficient. I would more suspect the recent “streamlining” and cost cutting efforts have led to sourcing of second-tier parts that are made to a budget and not always to a specification.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Sounds more like supplier and design issues than assembly plant stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      RSF

      I read in a separate article that some of the vehicles are being built with the wrong wheels and even wrong trim pieces. Also referenced were chassis x-rays, a/c inop, suspension issues, etc. You just can’t make this up! I mean, Ford only had like 9 years to get the new Explorer ready. I’d recommend waiting a couple of years for that new Explorer or Aviator!

    • 0 avatar
      EliMorgan

      It’s hard to fathom how Ford after all these years of auto manufacturing could get this level of poor quality. Heads need to roll. I toured the Nissan Plant in Canton MS in June and was impressed by the level of attention to quality. They had workers hand sanding the slightest imperfections in paint. Titans with imperfections were yanked at the end of assembly and stripped bare by a team of engineers to locate and fix problems. I am sure Ford does this to, this being a before assembly line problem. A real head scratch-er.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Tragic. Ford needs a home run with these, and seems to be hitting lots of fouls. I can only hope this debacle serves to get Hackett out the door, and a real “car guy” back into the C-Suite.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Endless recalls, downgrading credit, now a botched launch. Doesn’t Ford have any old, experienced people left to run the company??

    • 0 avatar
      Mnemic

      Mulally was a great turn around artist but im not 100% sure his future vision for the company was correct, especially with him not even being around (nor his successor) to unfold it.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Mulally was a cancer at Ford.

        “profits now, recalls later” is not a winning strategy.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        I’m going to agree. Ford was circling the toilet under Billy Ford and he wisely realized he was over his head. Mulally brought discipline to Ford, combining common world platforms and carving a unified vision as well as breaking up a shit-ton of little fiefdoms and intramural squabbles. Without Mulally I don’t see Ford getting out of the 2008 recession as an independent. But like any CEO he wasn’t perfect.

        EBFlex, when has Ford quality EVER been upper tier? Not in my 62 year lifetime…..

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “Endless recalls, downgrading credit, now a botched launch. Doesn’t Ford have any old, experienced people left to run the company??”

      Couldn’t this be considered evidence of experienced Ford people in action?

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Old, experienced, knowledgeable people who are skilled at troubleshooting and preventing problems tend to be grumpy these days – and no one wants to work with a grump… lol. So here we are.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Some things never change.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    They just dropped a cool billion to ‘upgrade’ the Chicago plant.
    https://www.chicagobusiness.com/manufacturing/ford-unveils-1-billion-upgrade-chicago-plant

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Back in the 80s, Ford embraced the Deming concepts to good effect. But over time, lessons get forgotten, systems decay, people turn over, and suppliers change (often because of cost). I’m not sure that “desk guy” has the depth to understand what makes a good vehicle company. Like another former UofM football lineman Gerry Ford, I think he’s overmatched in his current job.

    • 0 avatar

      Thats because Deming concepts are organic to Japanese culture, it is just the part of culture that aspires to perfection. For American capitalism based on individualism, quarterly reports and stock price it is a foreign concept.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Hamilton

      I just can’t believe such a large corporation can be so incompetent when launching these must be successful vehicles. It is unfortunate that they have forgotten or ignored the quality theories of Dr Deming. At least on paper these appear to be great products. I wish I could say the same for the comparable GM models. What has happened to U.S. auto manufacturers? Must they take their lessons from their Japanese counterparts? Did GM learn nothing from their NUMMI plant experience? I wish Ford the best of luck. They need some successes other than their F150.

      • 0 avatar

        “What has happened to U.S. auto manufacturers? ”

        May be they lay off experienced employees? Or older workers retire and new ones are “college educated” with MBAs or Liberal Art degrees and no clue about real world?

        • 0 avatar
          Greg Hamilton

          Very valid points. Unfortunately manufacturing is frequently looked down upon by finance, and I can say from experience, manufacturing is orders of magnitude more difficult than finance. Unfortunately, finance jobs pay more than manufacturing, and also from experience, I have learned that managers frequently don’t value those who do the actual work, those who do the “touch labor.” Many times I was brought in to solve a problem as a consultant and all I had to do was listen to the line workers. They knew what was wrong all along, but the boss didn’t listen.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      “Ford embraced the Deming concepts”

      I wouldn’t say they embraced them, more like an extended flirtation.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Sounds similar to what Chrysler went through with the Aspen/Volare in the mid-1970s and what GM went through with the Shytetation and the X-Cars in the early 1980s, only those POS’s were unleashed on the public. Ford has had the Pinto fuel tank issue in the 1970s and the TFI ignition module scandal in the 1990s.

  • avatar

    I don’t cuss on the internet. But, mother *****.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    God it sucks being right all the time.

    This is typical Ford and nothing more. Hackjob is simply Mulally 2.0. He wants to cut his way to profitability. No long range goal to retain customers. Quantity over quality.

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense knew that Ford would screw up these vehicles. And it’s only a matter of time before the trucks are plagued with massive quality issues and botched launches.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Agreed, and that is unfortunate. Obviously he is kowtowing to the pressures of short term investors and their desire for immediate profit. CEOs need to balance this with customer satisfaction and long term brand viability. Those that dont will have their businesses end up like Sears 2.0.

  • avatar
    roloboto

    LOL. Ford.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Maybe the XT6 stacks up against this car better than we gave it credit for…

    (Or maybe not.)

    • 0 avatar
      RSF

      I suppose since the XT6 is actually driveable, has working A/C, and goes into park correctly then yes, the XT6 is the one to buy.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I suspect a lot of this can be attributed to the Explorer/Aviator being a clean sheet design – there are inevitably “teething issues,” though they usually aren’t this severe. Hopefully Ford gets its’ act together on this – quickly.

        People give s**t to Cadillac for re-using the Acadia/Traverse’s platform and running gear, but clearly there are advantages to it. The XT6 may have 99 issues, but janky assembly isn’t one of them.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    It’s unbelievable that they still can’t get this right. This was supposed to be their cash cow, the one they put all their efforts into. And this is the result? 100% on management.

    Unlimited overtime, workers from other plants, asking Roush to get involved. Oh yeah, and the Flat Rock plant now has tents on the ground to deal with these vehicles. Congrats, Ford. You went from inventing the moving assembly line to copying Tesla production methods. What’s next, asking the fans to build cars for you on weekends?

    The Detroit Free Press also writes that some brand-new vehicles deemed unfixable are going straight to auction. And some of these cars are literally getting hundreds of miles put on them while they’re being repaired.

    Finally, that black plastic cladding around the wheel wells of the Explorer looks so cheap. How can they not see how much better the Aviator looks without it?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    They are just following the best practices established by Tesla.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Should have never closed Ford Wixom Assembly.

    (Cause it was one their highest assembly quality plants.)

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Apparently junk status applies to more than just Ford’s credit rating.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Let’s review. Ford:

    – cancels all sedans.
    – brings over the EcoSport, a dated product that has been sold in overseas markets for years.
    – brings over the Ranger, a dated product that has been sold in overseas markets for years.
    – goes low bidder when signing up suppliers for its cash cows.

    This can only end in tears.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Car and Driver’s Explorer has an as-tested price of $62K. Maybe this will give potential buyers a chance to come to their senses.

    I don’t usually waste my time on C&D any more, but for some reason it showed up at my place again. I’m reasonably certain they don’t have my credit card information, so I guess they’re really desperate for bogus subscriber numbers.

    The article on the Explorer had a sidebar about its fake exhaust tips. They’re fake because the DI engines produce so many particulates that real tips wouldn’t stay clean for the duration of a test drive. There was a time when Car and Driver would have advocated for its readers by explaining the health crisis being conjured by the EPA and CARB with gasoline direct injection. Now Car and Driver is a force for ignorance.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Maybe smoky DI engines will help drive the transition to EVs.

      Makes me glad my Highlander Hybrid is a 2016, the last year before Toyota put the dual-injection engine into the hybrid. Between the engine not running most of the time you’re idling and the very clean-burning port-injected, Atkinson-cycle 2GR-FXE, I don’t think I’ve ever smelled its exhaust, not even on cold start.

      This does not make me want to replace it with the new Explorer hybrid, to put it mildly.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      ” They’re fake because the DI engines produce so many particulates that real tips wouldn’t stay clean for the duration of a test drive.”

      No. That is not why Ford has those tips. Not getting dirty is a side effect.

      The real reason they did that was to prevent CO from entering the cabin. The way the exhaust exits the tips is the exact same way as the way they fixed the last generation Explorer. Saying it’s to keep the tips clean is a massive lie.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      It’s not as if gasoline DI exhaust particulate filters aren’t cheap, available and installed on many German cars for European use already. Because they are.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    Does anybody remember when Ford seemingly had a bunch of corporate goodwill as the only one of the big 3 that didn’t take a bailout?

    It seems that they’ve systematically pi**ed that away nicely.

    • 0 avatar
      80Cadillac

      What people don’t remember is that Mulally mortgaged the entire company, down to intellectual property (such as the Ford logo) for $23 billion, shortly before the crash began. That’s the only reason that Ford did not require a bailout loan to survive. It appears that they have indeed pi**ed away that goodwill, even if it was based in (often) sanctimonious error.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Thanks, 80Cadillac. Lots of folks seem to have forgotten that little factoid about Ford’s near death experience back in the mid 2000’s. I remember when I read that they hocked the Blue Oval logo, I thought that they were in as deep trouble as they had been in the early 1980’s…

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Quality is Job None!

    • 0 avatar
      EliMorgan

      FCA is going in the opposite direction. From being someone who loathed Chrysler products to one owning a 2019 Ram Laramie 1500 I take my hat off to the quality improvements at FCA. The fit and trim is excellent. Ford seems to have lost its mojo.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Just like the good old days: don’t buy a car the first year of its production.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      At least in the old days, the cars could actually be unleashed on the public. The number of Explorers/Aviators returned to the factory is in 5-digit territory.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @dividebytube

        Family owned a 1982 Celebrity (first year of A-body production). I can confirm the truth of that old cliche.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Honda had big infotainment glitches with the latest Civics and Odysseys, which would have put me off the first year of the Accord, even before moving to the all-new platform with the new turbocharged engines and transmissions. So far, so good with my May 29th build, so second year was the charm. Last year would have been about a year early for me to trade up, anyway, so it all worked out well.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          “Family owned a 1982 Celebrity (first year of A-body production). I can confirm the truth of that old cliche.”

          Considering that mechanically the 1982 Celebrity was extremely similar to the 1980 X-cars, that is pretty damning.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          PrincipalDan,

          In 1992, the Oklahoma City Assembly plant received the J.D. Power & Associates Gold Plant Quality award as the highest quality auto manufacturing plant on the continent. Producing A-bodies (not the Celebrity by then, but its former sisters).

          The vehicles looked dated in 1992 (especially the interiors), but they were screwed together very well.

          …Reinforcing that issues do tend to get ironed out over time.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      “don’t buy a car the first year of its production” – That’s assuming the manufacturer (which likely knew of the problem when it first released the car) decides to spend the money to fix it in the 2nd year of production, or just have dealers provide endless “software upgrades” in an attempt to pacify the customer, to the point of his giving up. And/or, provide the usual excuse: “They all do that.”

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Loot a company for short-term profit, lose the company’s operational capacity. Welcome to modern Wall Street-preferred management methods.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Wow is this bad news. I wanted to like the new Explorer and would consider it.
    I had an opportunity to view one at the MN State Fair and it left me underwhelmed especially after looking at the sticker. A rental mid-level Durango (on an ancient platform) I just drove for 2,800 miles seemed more appealing.

    The new Escape looks underwhelming also. A friend had a fully loaded 2020 hybrid on order for Sep delivery but cancelled it after seeing the vehicle also at the State Fair. She’ll likely end up with a CRV.

    These issues seem inexcusable after Ford has left themselves with little to offer consumers but the F-150.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I wonder if someday soon we’ll see the domestics being a one or two vehicle companies. Ford, with it’s F150 and maybe an SUV, GM with it’s trucks, maybe a couple of SUVs as well and now the mid-engine Corvette. FCA, at least domestically, would rock the minivan, a couple of Jeeps and their pickup truck.

      It’s Orwellian and Darwinian all at the same time…

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Gone are the days when automakers had to fill every niche. It didn’t matter if all weren’t profitable, as long as they stole sales from a competitor.

        Consumers cherrypick anyway. In the typical driveway cluster you’ll see a Silverado, Altima, RAV4, etc. If you buy a KIA minivan, do you care that don’t offer anything for your pickup truck needs? Where’s the outrage?

        As far as The Big 3 getting caught with their pants down in a sky is falling scenario, it’s not so hard to slow down the assembly of “trucks” while bringing in cars from Europe, Mexico, South American, etc, markets they have ties to.

        But imagine a FoMoCo that only sells profitable vehicles, combined with the obscenely profitable F-series. That’s more similar to financial footing of Mercedes or BMW. Yet they don’t sell pickups. And they’re also weak (much weaker) when it comes to compacts/subcompacts.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          The scenario with Ford only offering one or two models is that they become a one trick pony, if you’ll forgive the pun. I don’t envision another speculation driven fuel price increase like we had in 2008, but something like that could possibly happen again. Also, what if folks decide to go back to cars (fashions change)? The USDM has some unique requirements. I’ve seen some very interesting vehicles in other markets, but since they weren’t designed from the start to comply with US regs, we won’t get them here. Or they end up being kludges like the GTO that came over here years ago…

          I’m really bemoaning the loss of choice here in the States. I’m a car guy, plain and simple. Ford and GM were selling their European product here for a while and FCA brought some cheap (ish) and cheerful Fiats, too. Now I have 31 flavors of SUV…

    • 0 avatar
      Proud2BUnion

      CRV? If your “friend” thinks that’s a better choice over the new Escape, do a little research regarding cold weather oil dilution with the 1.5T.I also saw the Escape at the MN state fair, thought it looked great!

  • avatar
    jack4x

    It makes one wonder if these issues will hurt them with the fleet/police market. I imagine those customers are among the least tolerant of downtime.

    Since Explorers seem to be 50% of the cop car market these days, what could realistically make up for that volume?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Off the top of my head, I would think the Tahoe police version would be the most handy vehicle to replace Explorer police versions. I don’t think that FCA is interested in that kind of market.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The Ohio Highway Patrol is mostly Chargers, with an occasional Tahoe PPV for road patrol, but most I’ve seen are in weight enforcement. I’m struggling to remember if I’ve seen any OHP Explorer PPVs; if I have, it’s only been one or two.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          At least in Indiana, every municipal and county force seems to be majority Explorers (anecdotally of course, I don’t have any stats). Highway patrol/state police have Chargers.

  • avatar
    NoID

    I understand launching a new vehicle is challenging, but Ford really shot themselves in the foot with that “Failure” mode on the self-leveling suspension. Why even design and engineer such a mode? If the mode didn’t exist, the vehicles couldn’t get stuck in it.

    They were asking for trouble on that one.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Did Lincoln have problems like this when they released the Continental a few years ago? You’d think this has to do with the complexity of the vehicles and the Continental had a lot of that, too.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I haven’t heard about it with respect to the Continental, but I remember when the MKZ was still new, and the Mexican factory had to ship cars to Flat Rock for inspection and correction. TTAC covered the issue.

      The Continental is already made at Flat Rock. Maybe that’s the only factory Ford has any faith in.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Sounds like quite a massive mess based on the Freep article. The Ford spokesperson is basically telling everyone to move along, nothing to see here. But it sure sounds otherwise. They just can’t seem to figure out automatics lately. Guess it’s time to revert to manual transmissions across their now spartan lineup.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    sorry but next time any one on here moans about Lucas electricsno or British build quality I will point to this as one of many examples of dodgy American build quality.

  • avatar
    L.Hutz

    Funny, just yesterday I test-drove an Explorer ST, the first Ford vehicle I have ever been interested in purchasing, and the AC didn’t work (on a 93 degree day). On top of that, the materials felt sub-par (my VW GTI has a nicer fit and finish) and the rear captains chairs felt chintzy, uncomfortable, and did not fold flat (or at least, neither I nor the sales guy could figure out how to make them do anything other than lean forward to allow 3rd row access). This, on a vehicle that starts at $57k. Thank you Ford, for making it an easy, hard pass.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Do yourself a favor. Take your $57k and get a far superior Jeep Grand Cherokee with a HEMI. Better engine, better transmission, it’s reliable and it’s better looking.

      Plus your $57k Grand Cherokee High Altitude will have an out the door price of $46k. Superior in every way.

  • avatar
    Best_Ever

    #FordToo
    #MeFord
    Its Ford witch hunt day! Yay!

  • avatar

    The problem is the Hatchet-man and Mary Barra are more interested in share holder value than quality. Recently two of GM’s best selling SUVs appeared on consumer reports ten least reliable vehicles list. Earlier this year GM had its worst showing in Consumer Report annual reliability report in nearly a quarter century. Like GM, Ford seems only interested in profits at the expense of quality, market share, and customer satisfaction. How long is the Hatchet-man going to be running Ford?

  • avatar

    The Jack Welch school of running a company is finally poisoning the whole manufacturing base of the country. The short sellers are taking over.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    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!

  • avatar

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

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      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.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Carrera: Since I’ve been licensed to drive in 1993, I’ve owned a bunch of Hondas such as 1988 Civic (...
  • FreedMike: True, but any of those “cabbies” were tanks that would run a gazillion miles with proper...
  • Serpens: @jkross22 The GLA is just as much of a small SUV as it’s main competitor, the Audi Q3. They’re...
  • FreedMike: Once again, the system put one of my posts on the wrong thread. This new posting system is poor,...
  • FreedMike: Looks like one of those made-up midcentury cars in “The Incredibles.”

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States