Ford's Production of 2003 Model Sport-Utilities at Full Speed
By Bill Koenig
Traverse City, Michigan, Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. achieved full-speed production of its 2003 Expedition and Navigator large sport-utility vehicles at the end of July, an executive said.
The second-largest automaker stopped producing 2002 Expeditions and Navigators early this year and began building the new models in April. ``I would rate the launch as excellent,'' Roman Krygier, Ford group vice president of manufacturing and quality, said in an interview at an annual gathering of automotive executives at Traverse City, Michigan.
Ford is trying to smooth out its vehicle introductions after early recalls of the redesigned 2002 Explorer midsize sport- utility and the new Escape small sport-utility in 2000 and delays last year on the new Thunderbird car. While Ford may have avoided some of the quality issues in the latest changeover, the company's speed still lags Japanese automakers, an analyst said.
``That's not industry-setting results,'' said Alan Baum, an analyst at Planning Edge, an automotive forecasting firm in Farmington Hills, Michigan. ``They lost a bit of production'' in the switch from 2002 to 2003 models.
Sales of the Expedition have fallen 18 percent through July and Navigator sales have declined 17 percent. Ford has said it expects results to improve as more 2003 models hit showrooms.
About 60 percent of the parts on the 2003 models are new, Ford executives have estimated. The newest model ``was a major upgrade,'' Krygier said. ``We expected and required some down time.''
With the Navigator and Expedition, Ford held vehicles made during the first month of production for extra inspections before sending them to dealers. The automaker released the last of those vehicles in July. The company declined to specify what problems any of those vehicles may have had.
``The importance is to have a system in place that contains that and protects the customer and that's what we did,'' Krygier said.
Shares of Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford rose 40 cents to $12.16 at 4:03 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.