There are some weird goings-on behind the scenes of the 2020 Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator roll out. Apparently, there have been multiple assembly problems with new Explorer and Aviator SUVs. This particular story has to do with new Explorers and Aviators that have been assembled or delivered to dealers but not yet sold. There’s been other bad Explorer news, but this is somehow stranger.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford is hauling thousands of Explorers and Aviators by truck from where they are assembled at Ford’s factory in Chicago, to another Ford plant outside of Detroit. Workers at Flat Rock are trying to “identify and fix a series of complicated problems.”
Ford: “No Problems Here”
Weirdly, Ford has yet to say what’s going on. Dealers are reportedly upset because they aren’t receiving the large shipments they’ve been expecting. Demand for Explorers and Aviators is hot right now, and many customers are still waiting to take delivery. All that dealers have been told is that there are “manufacturing issues,” which is not satisfying customers who preordered an Explorer. Right now, they only have an empty stall in their garage and a lighter bank account.
One dealer told , the Detroit Free Press, “The process has been a little slow this time. I know one thing, we’re happy they’re not giving them to us until they can make sure they can get things right.” Dealers are not only getting fewer shipments than expected, but some of the Explorers and Aviators they have received have been recalled and had to be sent back to Ford.
The Freep talked to a person familiar with plant operations who said there are non-related issues the plant has been focusing on including chassis issues that require X-rays to diagnose, transmission-related issues with vehicles staying in Park or sensors telling the transmission it is in Park, air-conditioners blowing heat, and auto-leveling suspension issues.
Explorer Assembly Line
Besides these rather major concerns, there have also been assembly line mix-ups, such as the wrong wheels being used, missing emblems, and missing trim pieces. There has also been a recall for recliner mechanisms not working as designed or potentially failing in the event of an accident.
Affected vehicles were built between April and August of 2019, and all were built at the Chicago plant. The efforts to fix the seemingly unrelated problems seen in both Explorers and Aviators have been in force for over two months at Flat Rock, which is just south of Detroit.
Replacement components for the troubled Explorers and Aviators are reportedly being stored in a number of tents assembled outside of the Flat Rock plant, while Explorers and Aviators can be seen parked outside of a secure area next to the plant. Extra workers have been sourced from Kentucky, Dearborn, Wayne, and Sterling Heights plants to help address the diagnosis and then removal and replacement of components.
“Overtime Is Unlimited”
“Roush is taking on more and more of the repair work,” a person with knowledge of the situation said. “Overtime is unlimited. Each night, at the end of the day shift, the pre-delivery inspection areas are swept of all Mustangs (which are built at Flat Rock) and then the Chicago vehicles are brought in to be fixed.”
According to one source cited in the report, some vehicles have so many problems, they have been auctioned to salvage companies. Automatic transmissions have been seen with large amounts of fluid having leaked into puddles below new Explorers and Aviators.
The costs involved in trucking the vehicles, and then manpower necessary to fix the mysterious problems is staggering. Some think revenue will be much lower this quarter reflecting the issues at Flat Rock.
There have also been management changes at the plants, though Ford representatives are quick to point out these were routine retirements and had nothing to do with the Explorer/Aviator situation.