DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has delayed shipments of its newest vehicles at a time when its car sales are the lowest in decades and dealers are hungry for fresh products to boost sagging profits.
As of late last week, Ford had not begun shipping the 2005 Ford Five Hundred sedan, Freestyle sport wagon and Mercury Montego sedan to dealerships.
Ford has been building the vehicles at its Chicago assembly plant since mid-July. Dealers had been told shipments would begin the week of Aug. 23.
Ford COO Jim Padilla would not specify last week why Ford is holding on to the vehicles.
"When it's ready, we will ship it," Padilla said. "And we are very damn close."
Padilla said that he expects shipments to begin within the next couple of weeks.
Sales are still planned for September, though volume sales are not expected until October, after dealers build inventory and advertising begins.
To date, the company has built 3,627 Five Hundreds, 2,316 Freestyles and 915 Montegos.
Sources say they are not aware of major quality problems. One source said Ford is just being extra careful.
Dealers are hungry for the crucial new models because Ford Division dealer pretax profits are down about 8 percent through July.
Ford Division car sales plunged to 45,298 in August, apparently the division's lowest monthly car sales total since the build-up days following World War II.
Ford has fallen to fourth place in car sales for the year to date behind Chevrolet, Toyota and Honda. Ford ranked third behind Toyota and Honda after the first eight months of 2003.