Ford adds Lincoln MKZ inspectors to speed launch
Michigan crew will aid Mexican assembly plant
Editor's note: An early version of this story misstated the number of Lincoln Super Bowl ads. The brand will air two 30-second spots.
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co., seeking to speed deliveries of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ to dealers, is shipping some of the sedans to Michigan for quality inspections that can't be handled fast enough at the car's Mexican assembly plant.
Ford has added inspectors at its Flat Rock, Mich., plant in recent weeks to check MKZs sent from the car's factory 2,000 miles away in Hermosillo, Mexico, said Kevin Cour, Lincoln sales and service manager.
Dealers had expected to see the MKZ in December, but they say Lincoln has moved the date back several times. Most dealers still do not have any MKZs.
Lincoln is running two 30-second ad spots for the car during Sunday's Super Bowl, part of an effort to promote the sedan as the first of a new generation of Lincolns that will invigorate the brand. Lincoln's U.S. sales fell 18 percent in January after dropping 4 percent last year.
"We are 100 percent committed to the highest level of quality," Cour said in an interview today. "The final quality-inspection process was put in place to ensure we delivered on that mission."
He declined to say what has delayed the production launch. "We have not had any substantial quality issues. We are absolutely laser-focused on getting the fit and finish right," Cour said.
Lincoln had planned to do all the inspections in Hermosillo. But the decision was made in mid-January to have Flat Rock handle some of the work to keep up with volumes, Cour said.
"By using two separate locations, we are able to get more vehicles through the inspection process to get as many vehicles to dealers as quickly as possible. We have a ton of vehicles on rail cars being shipped to dealers as we speak. We've just started to see our first sales," he said.
Once inspections are finished in Flat Rock, Lincoln will ship them "via truck instead of rail cars to expedite delivery to you," Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, wrote in a memo to dealers earlier this week.
In the memo, Czubay said Ford planned to divert five weeks of Hermosillo's Lincoln production -- from the week of Jan. 28 through the week of Feb. 25 -- to Flat Rock for inspection.
The redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion mid-sized sedan, which has been recalled twice since its launch, is also built at Hermosillo on the same platform as the MKZ. Czubay told journalists and analysts today that MKZ stocks should be at normal levels by early April.
"It's absolutely paramount they be the best. We're going over them bumper to bumper," he said.
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