For being the most important SUV that Ford makes the new Explorer has been a disaster from one end to the other. Now comes news that overall 2019 Ford sales dropped 1.3% due to the Explorer’s disastrous issues. Sales in the fourth quarter were down 15% after the disastrous third quarter when sales plummeted almost 50%. Wow!
According to Bloomberg, Ford is saying that part of the problem in Q4 “was due to a planned reduction in sales to fleet buyers such as rental companies.” From what we know and what it was saying after the terrible Q3 results Ford is not being completely honest. Back then Mark LeNeve, Ford’s sales chief said, “For Q4 availability won’t be an issue. We’ll be able to hit our stride with Explorer starting now.”
Mysterious transportation of 2019 Explorers to Flat Rock assembly plant
This all started with the mysterious transportation of new 2019 Explorers from its assembly plant in Chicago to another plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. Thousands of Explorers were being transported by car haulers 270 miles to Flat Rock where the Mustang is manufactured.
Observed by news reporters, Ford had to respond. It told the press there were both personnel and assembly issues with some of the finished Explorers. Those with issues were loaded onto transporters and trucked to Flat Rock for remedial fixes. This also affects the Lincoln Aviator which is based on the Explorer.
Assembly was “constipated”
At the time Ford said there were adjustments that had to be made to the Chicago assembly plant. It had been completely renovated to convert over to the production of the brand-new Explorer. This added to the complexity of assembling the SUV. At the time Ford CEO Jim Hackett said assembly at the plant was “constipated.” Ford spent over $1 billion upgrading the plant for the new Explorer assembly.
Another issue was with personnel. From Bloomberg, “Roving groups of workers are intimidating other employees creating a hostile environment.” Some employees have experienced racial and sexual harassment back in 2017. Ford eventually settled claims filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of over $10 million. It paid $17.5 million over similar charges in 1999.
So, this plant has experienced a troubling past. Now it must overcome both its personnel and manufacturing issues quickly. SUVs are the hottest segment in automotive manufacturing and the Explorer has been its crown jewel.
Not all Ford news was bad
Not all the news coming from Ford was bad. The F-Series pickup saw sales gains of 1.6% overall. This was its best showing since 2005 and continued its reign as the best-selling pickup in the market.
For 2020 things look especially bright for Ford. It will start manufacturing its Mustang Mach E SUV, which has already sold out its first year of production. And it will debut the highly anticipated return of the Bronco and baby Bronco. Both are expected to start manufacturing in 2020. The Bronco is slated to debut this spring.