DETROIT - The re-engineered 2003 Lincoln Town Car is arriving on dealer lots. But already, Ford Motor Co. is scrambling to change the suspension, this time to save money.
The Town Car is not alone. The company has 1,000 engineers picking through all of its vehicles. They are seeking ways to remove product features, find cheaper materials and rework components at a lower cost.
Ford is paying for its sins of the past. In the late 1990s, the company overengineered many vehicles, adding rich content it believed would delight consumers and convince them to pay higher prices, improving profit margins. To overcome staggering losses, Ford by mid-decade wants to trim an average $700 per unit in material costs from every vehicle built in North America. Every part and system on Ford's North American product line is under the microscope, whether the vehicle is a future model, on the road or newly revised.
But critics maintain that the changes risk quality problems.
"If you look just at the piece price, you can gain in the short term but end up paying in the long term when it comes to warranty,'' said John Henke Jr., president of Planning Perspectives Inc. in Birmingham, Mich.