Ford Motor Co. dealers are stocking up on the F-150 pickup as the automaker prepares to change its plants over to the redesigned 2004 model.
Dealers are eager for the trucks to carry them through the changeover, when F-150 supplies are likely to tighten. Some dealers also expect that consumers will want the old truck, which is projected to sell with heavy incentives once the redesigned model is on the market.
Ford has taken buildout orders on the 2003 F-150 produced at the Norfolk, Va., and Kansas City, Mo., plants. Norfolk, the first plant to switch to the redesigned 2004 F-150, will stop production in May and start the new model in June. Kansas City will make its changeover in July and August.
Ford wouldn't say how many of the current-generation pickups are scheduled for production through the end of the 2003 model year, but the plants are running at maximum capacity, including overtime, Ford spokeswoman Becky Bach says.Dealer Jerry Reynolds of Prestige Ford in Garland, Texas, says, "I wanted as many of the old body-style trucks I could get my hands on."
Reynolds ordered about 500 pickups for the rest of the model year from one of the plants, about 30 percent more than he would typically order for a buildout.
Jim O'Connor, Ford group vice president for North America marketing, sales and service, says dealers are snapping up as many F-150s as they can. "We have no problems selling the F series," O'Connor says. "Those will be good values."
Ford expects to produce about 40,000 fewer F-150s than usual during the second quarter as the plants change over, O'Connor says. Then the redesigned trucks will be held back for as many as 30 days to be screened for defects. Every dealer will get at least one 2004 F-150 from the first wave of production, he says, and the new model is expected to reach dealer lots in September or October.
In addition to Norfolk and Kansas City, Ford will produce the current-generation truck at its Oakville, Ontario, plant through mid-2004.
Production of the new and old models will overlap for about a year until the new Rouge plant in Dearborn, Mich., starts assembling the redesigned F-150 in midsummer of 2004. The Oakville pickup plant is then scheduled to shut down.