Ford Motor Co. will delay delivery of its new Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover vehicles as it irons out problems at its Oakville, Ontario, manufacturing complex, company officials said Wednesday.
The company initially said it would deliver the car-based crossover vehicles to dealerships in November, but that now has been delayed until an unspecified date in December.
Several thousand of the vehicles have been built and all meet Ford’s quality standards, but Ford wants to make sure all of its manufacturing processes are working correctly before delivering the vehicles, Joseph R. Hinrichs, vice president of North American manufacturing, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“The product’s ready. We want to make sure that our process is equally ready to deliver, on a consistent basis, the quality and the timeliness of the deliveries that our dealers and our customers expect,” Hinrichs said.
Ford has critical check points to watch hundreds of assembly line work stations and wants to make sure quality is consistent with all the stations before rolling out the vehicle, he said.
“We’re not yet to the level where the consistency is where we want it to be to launch the vehicles,” he said.
Ford also has experienced inventory shortages from some companies supplying parts to the plant, Hinrichs said.
The Edge and MKX are important vehicles to the struggling Ford’s turnaround plan, with the company hoping to capture people seeking a more fuel-efficient alternative to truck-based sport utility vehicles.
Kevin Reale, research director for Boston-based AMR Research, an industry consulting company, said the delay is the correct decision for Ford because quality is so important in today’s competitive auto market.
“For them to be able to detect this is good,” he said. “If there’s quality issues associated with either their current assembly process or parts, it’s better for them to have the detection in the manufacturing process than have the detection occur out in the field.”
Ford clearly has a quality problem at the plant, said Catherine Madden, an auto industry analyst at the consulting company Global Insight Inc. But she said fixing it has to be balanced against getting the product to dealers when every sales day counts.
“I think it is prudent to meet those quality standards. Ford is under such a microscope now,” she said.
Ford lost $7 billion during the first nine months of the year and has said it won’t return to profitability until 2009. The company has offered buyouts and early retirement packages to all 75,000 U.S. production workers and plans to shutter 16 plants to reduce manufacturing capacity to match lower demand for its products.
Reale said Ford got a boost recently when Consumer Reports magazine gave its new Fusion midsize sedan high marks for reliability, showing the company is again building quality vehicles.
“I don’t think they want to do anything to damage that reputation. This could be a good move on their part,” he said.
Hinrichs said Ford will take the time to “get the product right” and have the same kind of success as it had with the Fusion.
“From our perspective if it takes a couple of extra weeks to achieve those levels of performance, then that’s time well spent,” he said.
Ford shares rose 20 cents, or 2.3 percent, Wednesday to close at $9 on the New York Stock Exchange.