DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has stopped routing redesigned Lincoln MKZ sedans from their Mexico assembly plant to a Michigan factory for quality inspections and repairs, Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said today.
The inspections, first disclosed by Ford on Feb. 1, had delayed deliveries of the brand's top-selling car by putting an extra logistical step into shipments.
Dealers have been left without MKZs while ads on the Super Bowl and other high-profile venues touted the new 2013 model and the revival of the Lincoln Motor Co.
Hinrichs said finished MKZs are flowing more freely now and dealer stocks should be at normal levels by March 31. "There will be large shipments arriving," he told reporters today. He said the backlog of MKZs at the Michigan plant, in Flat Rock, is close to being eliminated.
"That car has been getting up to more normal levels," Hinrichs said. "Sales have been increasing over the last week."
Parts shortages, Ford issues
Hinrichs said some parts shortages had hampered the launch, causing Ford to set aside some early production vehicles.
But Hinrichs said he didn't want to blame suppliers. "We had our own internal issues, too," he said. Quality expectations for the 2013 MKZ were "the highest I've ever been part of. It took us awhile to get our own processes right."
Hinrichs praised the Hermosillo, Mexico, plant, saying it had "come off a very aggressive launch of the Fusion and right into the MKZ, where expectations were even higher" because the MKZ was so important to the relaunch of the Lincoln brand.
Lincoln trumpeted the MKZ as a contemporary, stylish, distinctly American sedan that would appeal to young, hip customers dissatisfied with German luxury brands.
Lincoln advertised the car during the Super Bowl and Grammy Awards, stoking demand. But the quality issues and the rerouting of cars to Flat Rock slowed the flow of cars during the launch to a trickle. By some counts, cars now arriving at dealerships are four months' late.
The MKZ was Lincoln's top-selling vehicle last year, at 28,053 U.S. sales. With only a few 2013 MKZs in the pipeline and most 2012s sold off, Lincoln sales fell 18 percent to 4,191 in January, the lowest month since at least 1984, which is as far back as Automotive News' monthly records go.
In February, Lincoln sales fell 29 percent to 4,883. Lincoln's all-time peak sales year was 1990 with 231,660.