DEARBORN, Mich. (Dec. 26, 2000)—In a bid to avert embarrassing product recalls, Ford Motor Co. will hold newly built 2002 Ford Explorers at the factory until early February.
Ford began building the new Explorer in limited quantities at its Louisville, Ky., assembly plant in November.
The auto maker wants to avoid more of the product recalls that have dogged the company recently. For example, the Ford Escape has been recalled five times since its August launch. Some dealers fear customers will bolt to other brands.
Ford will slow the Explorer production ramp-up, add technical engineers from suppliers to the launch team and retain newly built Explorers at the factory to ensure quality, the company said.
"We want these vehicles to be absolutely immaculate when they leave our hands,´´ said Martin Inglis, vice president of Ford North America. "We are holding them in the yard so that in the unlikely event there is an issue that we discover, we are not chasing all over the place trying to find it.´´
The 2002 model is the first substantial redesign of the 10-year-old Explorer.
Shipments to dealers will begin in the second half of February, the company said. Ford did not disclose the number of units expected to be held.
The Explorer actions are part of a broader effort by Ford to improve quality and reduce vehicle recalls. The Ford Division National Dealer Council has made correcting the problem its top priority this year.
"It is going to be a much slower ramp-up than originally planned,´´ said Jim O´Connor, Ford Division president.
As many as 75 percent of Ford´s recently recalled vehicles were more than 2 years old, Mr. O´Connor said, citing recent efforts to boost quality of newer vehicles. Ford also is recalling units more quickly, even for reasons not related to safety, he said.
That practice results from the company´s heightened sensitivity to product quality in the wake of the massive Firestone tire recall in August and Ford´s mandate to be a customer-focused company, Mr. O´Connor said.
Ms. Connelly writes for Automotive News in which this article originally appeared.