DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. knows there's no room for error in launching its redesigned F-150 pickup. But executives are confident they won't repeat the costly mistakes that tripped up early Explorer production last year.
To roll out the Explorer, Ford tore its Chicago Assembly Plant down to the studs, rebuilt it in 30 days and tried to run three shifts of Explorers, Lincoln Aviators and Police Interceptors from the jump. It turned out to be a grave error.
The plant couldn't get line speeds moving as quickly as intended, and some early builds had to be shipped to Michigan for extra quality checks. The stumbles contributed to a dismal final quarter in 2019 and likely cost longtime executive Joe Hinrichs his job.
Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's product development and purchasing boss, told Automotive News nothing like that will happen with the F-150.
For starters, Ford doesn't have to gut its pickup assembly plants in Kansas City, Mo., and Dearborn, Mich. The two-plant system also provides a hedge against early problems and allows for continued production of the current model in one plant as the other one ramps up.
According to Ford's plant downtime schedule, Dearborn Truck will undergo routine maintenance that likely will include line changeovers for the new model the weeks of Sept. 7 and Sept. 14. Kansas City will follow in mid-October. Dealerships are expected to get their first shipments as soon as November.
Ford also is planning to stagger the launch of the hybrid model by a few weeks to further reduce risk.
"We are laser-focused on outstanding launch execution," Thai-Tang said. "The F-150 launch will be very different than what we experienced with Explorer."