How Ford bungled the 2019 launch of its bestselling Explorer

Business

Ford has had its share of struggles lately, including last year’s launch of its bestselling 2020 Explorer, a popular sport utility vehicle thought to be a bit of a cash cow for the automaker.

Ford said in February that its president of automotive, Joe Hinrichs, would retire. Hinrichs oversaw operations for the automaker. Some automotive industry analysts viewed the move as fallout from the Explorer launch. Sales of the vehicle had fallen year over year in both the third and fourth quarters of 2019.

There have been at least four recalls of the Explorer since Ford began delivering the vehicle in the middle of 2019 and another three recalls for the Lincoln Aviator, a higher-end vehicle built on the same platform. Ford told CNBC that most of those recalls were handled before vehicles left sales lots.

Reports have surfaced of customers saddled with troubles in newly purchased Explorers and Aviators. The Detroit Free Press reported that unnamed sources inside the company worried that the company has not taken steps to fix “chronic manufacturing issues” and worry Ford “lost track of quality control.”

Ford acknowledged difficulties with the launch on conference calls with investors in 2019, but the automaker said the launch was an unusual situation.

The launch of the Escape compact SUV went far better, the company said, and it expects the roll-out of its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV to go smoothly as well. The company plans to launch some key products over the next several quarters, including a new version of its F-Series full-size pickup, which is widely considered Ford’s primary profit machine.

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