By on October 21, 2019

Image: Ford

Plagued by reports of manufacturing defects and post-production emergency surgery at Flat Rock Assembly, Ford’s Chicago-built 2020 Explorer and Lincoln Aviator platform mate are a weight placed on the shoulders (and career) of CEO Jim Hackett. It’s also weighing down the company’s stock, analysts claim.

While the automaker said earlier this month that Explorer supply was on the upswing, with new vehicles now shipping directly to dealers, it seems Bill Shatner hasn’t shot all of the gremlins off the wing of this flight.

According to Bloomberg, not all new Explorers are making the trip directly from Chicago Assembly to various dealers. A shipment of 2,500 Explorers recently turned up at Flat Rock for post-production fixes, sources claim, and some dealers are now tasked with fully baking the pies they’ve been handed before turning them over to customers.

While the equally new Ford Escape has, um, escaped the problems afflicting the brand’s new midsizers, the importance of the Explorer line to the company’s bottom line — plus the hefty load of cash that went into upgrading the Chicago plant — is something Hackett might have to address during a third-quarter earnings report expected Wednesday. The plant upgrade, along with other initiatives, was meant to mend long-standing problems at Chicago Assembly. At least in terms of product, that didn’t occur.

While Ford claims no knowledge of it, sources say “roving groups of workers” are intimidating other employees within the bowels of Chicago Assembly, hampering production and leading to mistakes that must be fixed offsite. Ford is waiting for UAW-affiliated General Motors workers to ratify a new contract agreement before bargaining can begin.

The botched launch hasn’t helped the brand’s stock price recover from the Mark Fields days, either, something Hackett’s survival is staked on. The company’s shares have fallen 15 percent since the CEO switch. Indeed, Hackett, joined by Chairman Bill Ford Jr, was all over the Explorer launch, putting his face on the new model. At the time, the new Explorer served as proof of the company’s — and the plant’s — turnaround.

“This Explorer issue is going to be a big negative for the quarter,” said Morningstar analyst David Whiston. “It’s a viciously competitive market and you don’t want to be missing one of your big hitters.”

According analysts’ predictions, the previous quarter will not bear good financial news. Profit and revenue are both expected to slip, something the Explorer and Aviator can take credit for.

[Image: Ford]

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61 Comments on “Ford’s 2020 Explorer Hasn’t Left the Woods Just Yet, Report Claims...”


  • avatar

    It’s simply INEXCUSABLE that Ford is screwing up the CRITICAL launch of the Lincoln Aviator (as well as the Explorer). This was going to be the vehicle that put Lincoln back on the map in the luxury segment. This ranks right up there with FCA’s dismal relaunch of Alfa Romeo. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      It’s so typical of Ford and I’m a fan. They take forever to release new product and then when they do they’re plagued with problems. NEVER, evah buy a Ford in the first TWO years of a new model, because that’s how long beta testing lasts

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      Well the FCA-Alfa launch failure is sort of like a bad hors d’oeuvre, it’s not ideal but its a sideshow. The explorer is bread and butter.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      “sources say “roving groups of workers” are intimidating other employees within the bowels of Chicago Assembly, hampering production and leading to mistakes”

      So…what are you blaming on Ford IF this is causing the issues?
      Sounds like a union hit job?

  • avatar
    jack4x

    ‘Sources say “roving groups of workers” are intimidating other employees within the bowels of Chicago Assembly, hampering production and leading to mistakes that must be fixed offsite.’

    Wow, way to bury the lede. WTF

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      That sounds like local union politics. I’ve seen it in action.
      Local union elected and appointed positions are valuable and fought over, because with the potential for essentially unlimited overtime, the money is big.

      It sounds like Ford has lots of management problems too, both in the plant and at headquarters.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Do you remember when the Obama regime’s NLRB was advocating for ‘card check’ in union elections to facilitate terrorizing workers into complying with the organized union arm of the Democratic party?

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        The only reason that never happened is that Congress ran out of time being fully engaged on Obamacare, and by 2011 there was a Republican majority in the House.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          They didn’t run out of time to drive our BlueCross/BlueShield health insurance out of the park, and totally unaffordable for the family business.

          True story.

          Those who could went back to second-rate Government-type health insurance, like VA, Military Clinics, TriCarePrime, IHS/PHS, etc.

          Those who couldn’t, went without.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      This is the really inexcusable part. Any findings of sabotage should result in automatic termination with no grievance process. Unbelievable that employees would be undermining their employer in such ways.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      While Ford claims no knowledge of it, sources say “roving groups of workers” are intimidating other employees within the bowels of Chicago Assembly, hampering production and leading to mistakes that must be fixed offsite.

      I couldnt agree more. If this kind of BS is going on at the plant, stay far, far away from the end product. There is absolutely no excuse for this type of behavior in any workplace. This would apply double to a job where someone needs to focus on precision assembly and not be distracted by coworker (read as “union thug”) intimidation.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      This absolutely astounds me. How on earth is this being allowed to happen. Is their some sort of confusing logic in the UAW contract that says while ford owns the plant, they get to operate it as they see fit? I don’t get how ford would actually allow this to happen; as they would be on the hook for some serious liability if something happened (like a car accident and a safety system didn’t work). They better pray they don’t get sued and have people start going through their records during this time period because who knows what that would turn up. If you did that at any other place of employment, they would and rightfully should fire you. If this happened at my work, we would literally be shut down by the FDA and production would be ceased until the FDA was satisfied with fixing the root issue. And we send out a heck of a lot less number of units than ford does every year.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    The new Explorer and Aviator are unmitigated disasters, and these rolling dumpster fires that won’t be reliable or correct – ever (because many of their reliability woes are design defect-oriented), which means Ford/Lincoln would have to completely go back to square one,p in the design phase and build them ground up new again.

    A refresh or manufacturing process overhaul won’t work to make these less-than-abysmal reliability wise (they reportedly even have body structure issues).

    To make matters even worse, the new 4 banger, Range Rover-priced Explorer is being bettered by the likes of supremely better quality, more substantial, much more reliable makes/models such as the KIA Telluride, which comes with FAR more standard equipment, is built so much better of such better materials (there are acres of cheap, hard black plastic in the interiors of the nosebleed priced Explorers along with cheap switchgear and cheap everything) than the Explorer, all while costing $16,000 less similarly equipped, and having a superior warranty (you’re much more likely to need the warranty, and for longer, on the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, also).

    Ford has really screwed this beyond horrifically, they will never be able to make this gen of the Explorer or Aviator anything less than a rolling dumpster fire of a vehicle in terms of quality or reliability, and the sooner Hackett and Farley are replaced with people caring about fundamental quality baked into the design, engineering and manufacturing processes as the overarching, paramount goal, while setting realistic pricing in an increasingly competitive and saturated market, the better.

    Ford has used 8 of its 9 lives, just like Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM -‘technically GM used its 9th live in 2009 and then declared taxpayer bailout bankruptcy).

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      So you’re saying office desk guy found out building cars is a bit more difficult?

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      I don’t always agree with DW, but when he is right, he is right. The Telluride / Palisade combo punch WAY above their beltline in terms of quality, luxury and technology. The interior of the top-end Telluride SX is leagues better than any of the 3-row competitors, even those costing $20000 more.

      I never thought I would look at a Kia, but man that Telluride is plain wonderful.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        They are all BLING.
        For example, in a Car n Driver comparison out today, the Koreans won.
        However, one issue they had with the Korean jobs is “closing the doors shutter the entire vehicle”
        I have had my fill of being glossy eyed and hooked into buying Korean cars only to see a 6 year old car looking and sounding like it is 10 years old.

        • 0 avatar
          Greg Hamilton

          My nine year old Hyundai Veracruz holding up extremely well. It has the 3.8 engine and the Aisin 6 speed automatic. It has been a very reliable car.

        • 0 avatar
          Jerome10

          This has always been my feeling as well.

          Reliability might not be too bad. Cars keep running. But suspensions and steering etc seem to be “done” well before most competitors.

          Unfortunately I suspect most companies, probably including ford, are not designing and building for long term or subsequent owners.
          They’re building to lease.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          “I have had my fill of being glossy eyed and hooked into buying Korean cars only to see a 6 year old car looking and sounding like it is 10 years old.”

          I don’t see how Fords are any better than Koreans in this regard.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Trust but verify.

            I too like the looks of the Palisade (I find the Telluride to be a bit too obviously a Range Rover knockoff). But I haven’t yet driven any Korean car that I thought got suspension and steering right.

            I’m very curious to drive one of these and see if they’ve managed it this time. (I also feel curious about the Genesis G70.) If I see one in the Emerald Aisle it will be my first choice.

            I wouldn’t buy one unless/until it gets an electric powertrain or a hybrid system that’s better than previous H/K attempts (the Sonata Hybrid is pathetic). With the discontinuation of the six-cylinder Highlander Hybrid, the most attractive powertrain to me in the segment is Ford’s upcoming 3.0 hybrid, but I certainly won’t trust Ford to get that sort of powertrain right from the start. That’s fine; my current Highlander Hybrid will last for quite a few years.

        • 0 avatar
          SSJeep

          Ill have to take another look at the reviews – I hadnt heard anything regarding body shudder on the Koreans.

          Supposedly Hyundai has the longest and most thorough model test cycle in the industry and vets this stuff out long before production. 6 years ago there were some issues related to longevity, Id be surprised if they still exist today.

  • avatar

    Lets put all our eggs in two baskets and then shake one of them up really hard! Fields was a disappointment in his leadership after so many years seeing him in waiting, but Hackett has been incompetent. They said they weren’t a car company, and it’s starting to show.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Quality Twilight Zone reference, just add some whack-a-mole too

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    http://www.motortrend.com/cars/kia/telluride/2020/2020-ford-explorer-vs-2020-kia-telluride-three-row-suv-comparison/

    “…Look closely at the interior details, and you’ll notice the Telluride’s superior build quality. Everything you touch feels expensive and substantial, and our SX tester’s two-tone Nappa leather upholstery further enhances the cabin’s premium ambiance. In comparison, the Explorer XLT’s interior reeks of cheapness, putting it way behind the Telluride in terms of quality. Multiple staffers criticized the Explorer’s interior for cost cutting and the extensive use of substandard bits throughout the cabin. (Editors had similar opinions about two more expensive Explorer testers.)”

    Think about that…A base trim $32,000 KIA Telluride has SUPREMELY better build quality, interior materials, ride quality, driving dynamics than even the ALL NEW upper trim level $56,000 Ford Explorers (and inevitably, the KIA Telluride will have much better reliability, shirt and long term).

    Way to go Ford!

    “…dynamic differences become apparent once the road starts to twist and turn. The Telluride clearly has refinement and stability in mind. Evans appreciated that the Kia drives smaller than it looks and handles better than expected, and MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina was impressed by its body control and nice suspension. “It absorbs broken pavement and railroad tracks really well,” he said.

    The Explorer also rode well over broken surfaces, though it lacked composure. “The suspension is quite bouncy, and the cabin movement was quite notable,” Cortina said. Its vague steering also felt overboosted, and the cabin of our tester suffered from so much wind noise at highway speeds that Evans thought one of the rear windows wasn’t fully closed. When driving through twisty roads, the Explorer flopped around more, and its poor body control made it feel unwieldy through tight roads.”

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m hesitant to give much weight to opinion of the chowderheads at Motor Trend, but outside of softball “first drive” reviews most of what I’m reading on the new Explorer is leaning negative.

      C/D just posted a 3-row CUV test where the Explorer and Enclave both had a poor showing. The RWD layout doesn’t seem to be paying any dynamic or driving experience dividends. The interior is getting blasted nearly every where, and although the 2.3T/10A combo seems good from a stop the engine is criticized for its NVH and behavior from a roll.

      caranddriver.com/reviews/comparison-test/a29516727/new-3-row-suvs-compared/

      Now, bad reviews from enthusiast publications is hardly the kiss of death in the segment. But, if you combine that with black dots in the next Consumer Reports auto issue, then Ford has trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        Ouch. Consumer Reports’ review has pretty much the same verdict, no reliability data yet. A stretched Kia Sorento, or something resembling one, beats a clean sheet design for what the vast majority of buyers will be using these 3 row SUVs for. You know, minivan duty, as opposed to frequent towing and off-roading.

        Makes one wonder how much money these CD6 platform vehicles is costing Ford: new design, new factory, post-build repairs, lost revenue, and not much opportunity to share with other vehicles – Edge/Nautilus, Mustang are rumored.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          not much opportunity to share with other vehicles – Edge/Nautilus, Mustang are rumored.

          If it was a RWD version of those “lego” type platforms that many of Ford’s competitors have developed, that would be great. Missed opportunity IMHO.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          Well ironically, thats actually fords solution it appears. Cease production of cars and move everything to this SUV platform (except for the mustang). My understanding of that the platform is going to be used in assembling all mid and full size suv’s going forward. Looking at its design, it also appears that scaling it down to fit the small/compact SUV market should not be to difficult (relative to the cost of building one on its own platform). Its the same approach VW uses with its MLB architecture which is truly a marvel, despite its somewhat poor reliability (though that seems to have improved in recent years).

      • 0 avatar
        AVT

        While I do find the buick overpriced (why they used a buick instead of the traverse which fixes the price/content issue eludes me) GM’s lambda platform especially after the redesign in 2017 is extremely durable. Lots of people up here in MN use them for towing light fishing boats and ATV’s to the cabin if it saves them spending all the money required to step up to their BOF SUV’s, which are immensely expensive. However, the pricing structure of the ford given what you get will have to be addressed at some point, probably by dealer sales. I do think the platform of the ford is or should be solid, but those reports of chassis issues earlier really shake my faith in that. I mean from a quality perspective, that should have been noticed and addressed way earlier in the development cycle. I will say this, I think the SUV market share for the 3 row crossover will really change for each manufacture over the next 5 years. The koreans are making some solid inroads. I wish mazda could do that but no one seems to want to buy them, despite how well rounded and fun they are.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Admittedly the Telluride SX is Kia’s TOP END model, not base trim. But the sentiment is correct. the $46000 Kia is supreme in all aspects.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Local Ford Dealer has an Explorer perched on their pedestal of the car lot (one of those metal ramp things 2-3 ft off the ground. I’m tempted to do my own walk around, if it looks good I guess I know their PDI and Body Shop guys do good work.

    (They also have a High Performance 2.3 Mustang parked right in front of the dealership. Visually it’s a dead ringer for the one that TTAC test drove.)

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’ve said it many times, and it gets worse with each passing year –

    Ford is VERY close to Audi in pricing (overlap, in some cases), while offering abhorrent quality (they bring up the rear of the pack in CR’s comprehensive reliability index, hanging with JLR).

    Ford is going to get eviscerated as more and more consumers realize that they produce massively overpriced, low quality, vehicles with awful reliability, and that MUCH better competing vehicles are available at a muchh lower price.

    Ford has coasted for way top long in the SUV/CUV segment, that is now nothing short of ferociously competitive.

    • 0 avatar

      I sold Ford trucks and some retail units too for several years. I made the jump to Volvo for a different dealership experience and was shocked how much pricing overlap there was. I’m surprised any top end Ford sell other than if their buyers assume they can’t afford a nicer car so they never look.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    BUILT FORD PROUD

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    I test drove the new Explorer with the 4 while my car was being worked on.
    It felt great.
    Never felt like it was struggling as Car n Driver said.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    This is so ridiculous.

    Ford knows how to build decent vehicles. Especially RWD truck (y) ones. And this model should be a great product. What other 3 row vehicle besides the Durango can boast RWD and solid towing?

    This is rookie stuff here. And again I don’t always agree with DW either but I suspect he is right. I hope Ford can correct things but I learned long ago in autos you have to do it right from the design and development phase otherwise it’s band aids and playing catch up (and blowing your profit).

    I have tended to like how fords drive. But the last couple launches have me really wondering what is going on over there.

    Incompetent people in key positions (people getting put in positions for diversity reasons not because they’re the best? Ford has pushed that for a very long time). Cost cutting Nasser-Style? Pushing too much design onto incompetent suppliers?

    Nice too that they have to pay a workforce that sabotages product. Should have shut that plant down.

    Mistakes like this pile up quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      “What other 3 row vehicle besides the Durango can boast RWD and solid towing?”

      -The way Ford has priced this, the Tahoe is a real competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      This is the heart of the issue. Ford has been assembling vehicles longer than anyone else, but based on everything we are seeing/hearing so far, there still seems to be fundamental issues even before these vehicles are getting to the production stage. It should not be rocket science to build a RWD SUV. They have done it before. At the end of the day your job as a company is too supply a quality product that people will buy and as a result, they give you money for new ones every few years because they find value in what they purchase. I consider Toyota a good example of this (Lexus serving as the halo for this concept). When you fail to do this, all you do is cost yourself time, money, and energy. Do it right the first time, and then perform your six sigma if any issues arise. That’s been the cornerstone of manufacturing for years yet it seems that this concept has been thrown out the door at ford, or there is an active business policy that prevents this from happening at a production level. Either way its a frightening thought.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Isn’t 3 Sigma close enough? 93.3% – that’s an A, right?

      • 0 avatar
        Greg Hamilton

        I think you are right. Toyota uses Dr Edwards Deming’s approach. If you follow his approach the quality you get is cheaper in the long run, less rework, lower warranty costs, but it does take a deep understanding and respect of the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, in the U.S. manufacturing is looked down upon, finance pays much more, and the finance guys run the show so this trend will likely continue.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    For what it’s worth C/D had a comparison of three row CUVs. The Explorer finished 4 out of 5 behind the Telluride, Palisade, and CX-9. Embarassing comments about unsettled ride/handling and subpar interior design/materials.

    Too bad – I wanted to like the new Explorer.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    All I can think of is the movie Gung Ho

    You will fix these, before they leavd the factory.

    I will.

    I will?

    I like you. You make me laugh.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    So I’m more likely to get pulled over by a new explorer than buy one (if I actually wanted buy one).I’m sure local PDs don’t care if trim pieces are falling off.

  • avatar
    Fliggin_De_Fluge

    Gone are the times when people had pride in their work. New generations don’t care and have no interest in anything outside of laziness and themselves. Remember that when you put your life in the hands of one of these soul-less humans. Bring in the robots.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      If I’m on the line and responsible for fitting injection-molded-plastic part A into stamped-metal part B, I can have all the pride of workmanship in the world, but if the parts don’t fit together, they don’t fit together. The problem is further upstream. It might be with stamping; it might be with the plastic part supplier. It might get fixed either place, or neither place. But until someone fixes it, the parts do not go together.

      Do you really want me to attempt a workaround on every part at line speed?

      • 0 avatar
        Greg Hamilton

        I think you are correct. Toyota took the worst performing GM plant and under Toyota’s direction the NUMMI plant became GM’s highest quality plant. The problem wasn’t with the workers, but simple minded people always blame people on the line. In most cases, it simply isn’t true.

        • 0 avatar
          Fliggin_De_Fluge

          Yes because people have nothing to do whatsoever with how parts are put together, or fitted in the automobile. “Never buy a car on Monday or Friday” because that was just BS and never meant anything. No, people were never throwing stuff into unreachable places inside cars while they were going down the line. No, it’s all the fault of the people who designed the parts and the workers can never say anything about them or stop the line to get it fixed. Talk about simple minded wow, I wouldn’t want folks like you managing my plants. Yikes!

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Toyota dumped those UAW ‘workers’ before they ever let another worker go for demand reasons. Wake up.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Pay your engineers as little as possible. And, make sure pay a premium only for diversity. Grades comes second. What could go wrong? Everything.

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