Ford Delays Vehicles After Running Out of Badges
With supply constraints persisting within the automotive industry, the knowledge that a manufacturer has induced a production stall due to a lack of parts is hardly big news. Nobody seems able to source enough batteries and the semiconductor shortage has left automakers dealing with routine factory shutdowns. But Ford seems to be confronting one of the saddest examples we’ve yet seen and has confirmed that it’s delaying trucks – seemingly because it doesn’t have enough trim badging or Blue Ovals to go around.
Granted, this is relatively small potatoes compared to earlier production stalls. In 2021, Ford was building mostly functional vehicles without semiconductors and just letting them sit around until the chips finally arrived. Though this was becoming brutally common among automakers after pandemic-related restrictions completely upended the supply chain. General Motors took a similar approach and was estimated to have roughly 100,000 partially built vehicles just sitting around over the summer. Many companies likewise elected to stop production altogether while others (e.g. Audi and GM) offered special trims that were effectively discontented base models requiring fewer computer chips.
Considering the above, it’s no wonder that the latest studies have suggested vehicles manufactured over the last couple of years have had some reliability issues vs their predecessors. Everyone’s been scrambling to maintain increasingly scaled-back production schedules during a period where nobody knew if they’d have the right components. While the situation has improved somewhat recently, the case of Ford running out of badges is a reminder that we’re not yet out of the woods.
The manufacturer began storing unfinished F-Series pickups at the Kentucky Speedway late last month – something it also did last year due to the semiconductor shortage. Last week, Ford also said it expects to have about 40,000 to 45,000 vehicles in inventory at the end of the third quarter that couldn’t be shipped to dealers because they were awaiting needed parts. The company later confirmed with The Wall Street Journal that these units were primarily high-margin trucks and SUVs suffering from component shortages that “primarily involved parts other than semiconductors.”
While the company declined to commit to a lack of badges being a contributing factor, it’s hard to presume they made no difference considering the timing. A Michigan-based supplier (Tribar Technologies) known to have produced badges for Ford disclosed to regulators at the end of the summer that it had accidentally dumped industrial-grade chemicals (hexavalent chromium) into the local sewer system. As a result, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy shut the company’s operations down in August.
It certainly makes Ford look bad. But the reality of the situation is that just about everyone is still having trouble with suppliers. In addition to the ongoing deficit of computer chips and EV batteries, automakers are citing insufficient amounts of glass, carpet, rubber, and seating coming from suppliers. Ford’s issue just happens to be funnier because badging is probably the most non-essential part of any car (effectively serving as a form of advertising) and the company’s emblems haven’t been known for standing up to the test of time. There are even forum threads dedicated to this singular issue.
As someone who has owned a handful of Ford products myself, I can attest to this being anecdotally true. But it seems to be a matter of quality control from the supplier, rather than some universal defect. Ironically, the one Blue Oval that stayed the bluest was affixed to my 1998 Crown Victoria LX – a vehicle that spent the vast majority of its life sleeping outdoors.
Regardless of how well they hold up, Ford needs to address the badge problem and any other supply constraints it’s currently dealing with immediately. The company recently reported that shipment delays will shift some revenue to the fourth quarter and estimates quarterly results will be $1 billion shy of its previous targets due to higher payments going to suppliers and general inflationary pressures. Its stock valuation has also been moving in the wrong direction, though Wall Street has been trending downward generally of late.
Based on the present state of the industry, I'm sure they could come up with a clever name for models sold sans-badge and convince customers to pay for the emblem-delete option. I can even imagine the ad campaign copy: "People don't deserve to be labeled, why should your truck?"
[Image: Neveshkin Nikolay/Shutterstock]
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