DETROIT -- Continued delays in getting the 2013 Lincoln MKZ to dealers hobbled Lincoln sales in February, but sales rose 11 percent for the Ford brand and 9 percent for Ford Motor Co. overall.
Lincoln sales dropped 29 percent, dragged down by a 62 percent plunge in MKZ sales as Lincoln continued grappling with a launch that has been delayed several months.
Despite the drop at its Lincoln brand, Ford Motor Co. posted its highest February sales in six years.
The Fusion mid-sized sedan and Escape compact crossover recorded their best February numbers ever, while sales of the F-series pickup rose 15 percent.
As usual, the F-150 pickup was Ford's biggest seller, followed by the Fusion and Escape. The Explorer SUV and Transit Connect van, up 59 percent and 57 percent respectively, posted the biggest sales increases.
Ford also said it will build 800,000 vehicles in the second quarter, a 9 percent increase from 2012.
Ford said today it may continue quality inspections of the 2013 MKZ at its Flat Rock, Mich., plant even after April 1, when the company expects to reach normal dealer stocking levels. It previously had said the Flat Rock inspections for the MKZ, which is made at Ford's Hermosillo, Mexico, plant, would end in mid-March.
"Our goal would be to have all the quality checks at Hermosillo," Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, told journalists and analysts on a sales conference call today. But he said Ford would continue the Flat Rock inspections for "as long as it takes."
Lincoln launched a new quality inspection process for the MKZ in January. The company has said that the number of MKZs coming off the line exceeded the capacity of inspectors in Hermosillo to keep up. So Lincoln began shipping all MKZs -- except for those bound for western and southwestern states -- to Flat Rock.
In a Feb. 9 interview, Matt VanDyke, global director of marketing, sales and service, said that he expected the Flat Rock inspections to go on for five more weeks.
Czubay today said, "The number one priority for us is that the MKZs will be premium luxury quality." He added that Ford has begun delivering "approximately 100 MKZs per day."
The company has heralded the MKZ as the first in a new generation of Lincolns. But the delays in delivering the car have frustrated dealers, who have had to explain the delays to customers, especially after Lincoln sponsored commercials for the MKZ during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl.