Ford Motor Company may have sidelined thousands of 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators due to hazy manufacturing issues, but it seems many vehicles slipped through the quality dragnet and into the hands of consumers.
You saw a eyebrow-raising walkaround of a dealer-fresh Aviator here the other week. Owners, however, get to slip behind the wheel and, in some cases, experience a bewildering array of symptoms.
For the sake of both the brand and buyers wishing to spend their hard-earned money on traditional American luxury, let’s hope the 2020 Corsair arriving this fall side-steps the quality issues plaguing the Aviator.
As detailed by the Detroit Free Press, consumer complaints are piling up, including gripes aired by, well, Consumer Reports. The publication recently took possession of a store-bought Aviator, only to see the thing go HAL 9000.
“When you get in, the speedometer and tachometer kind of goes berserk,” said Jake Fisher, CR‘s director of auto testing. “While driving, all of a sudden the digital gauge cluster seems to be having huge problems. For the first couple of miles, it’s hard to see what you’re doing.”
Good, perhaps, for a motorist attempting to explain away their speeding to a state trooper, but hardly the image Lincoln wants to project to prospective customers. The company wants the Aviator to attract the attention of cross-shoppers, luring premium buyers away from import brands while retaining Lincoln’s customer base. And, while some rivals’ tech decisions (Lexus’ touchpad controller, for one) might turn off buyers, Lincoln’s competitors aren’t suffering from reports of quality issues.
The problems plaguing CR‘s Aviator, Fisher said, seem to stem from buggy software — something automakers should ensure is free of gremlins before owners take to the road.
One customer who chose the Aviator now regrets it. Glencoe, Illinois’ Laurel Spencer told Freep last month that her month-old vehicle has given her so many problems, she’d like to be rid of it. The problems aren’t minor, either.
“It wasn’t more than 24 hours since I drove it off the lot that I had my first problem — a leaky sunroof,” she said. “A week or so later, it was seat belts that didn’t work, and now it has been in the shop for nearly a week for computer malfunctions which had my crash detection set off when driving on a quiet road. The parking brake came on while driving, and a major transmission fault alarm went off. When they were fixing it, the seat controls went.”
One of the two recalls issued for the Aviator involved seats, but not the problem Spancer describes. Shortly after its introduction, Lincoln called back Aviators for rear-seat seatbacks that could give way in the event of a crash. A separate recall concerned a transmission that might not be in the gear you think it’s in, at least according to the gear position indicator.
While an earlier report detailed masses of Explorers and Aviators entering Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly via truck after leaving their Chicago Assembly birthplace, the automaker now claims shipments are heading straight to dealers from Chicago. However, sources say roughly 1,500 vehicles remain at Flat Rock.
Lincoln’s Aviator sales tally for the third quarter of 2019 amounted to 1,899 vehicles.
“As part of the launch of Lincoln Aviator, we were shipping vehicles to Flat Rock for additional quality checks and inspections,” Lincoln spokesperson Angie Kozleski told Freep. “This is a longstanding practice at Ford Motor Co. with all-new vehicles to ensure that our vehicles are the highest possible quality for customers and we are taking every necessary action to ensure that the Aviator is built with the levels of quality and craftsmanship that our luxury customers expect.”
While some owners may be pleased with their purchase, those who bought an apple with a bug in it soon took to Facebook to share their stories. One owner on the dedicated page reported his Aviator’s tranny slipping into neutral while pulling up to a red light. When the signal changed, a right-foot jab didn’t get the vehicle moving. Another owner complained of his infotainment screen going dark without warning or reason.
If these issues are the product of a bad early batch, and if Ford has ensured vehicles currently rolling out of Chicago are free of headaches, then it’s possible Lincoln will weather the storm of bad PR relatively unscathed. If buyers can’t be assured that the Aviator they’re thinking of buying won’t leave them on the phone with their dealer’s repair manager, however, a problem exists. The old-timer stigma Lincoln hoped to eliminate with its new crop of models could make way for an even more damaging one.
[Images: Lincoln Motor Company]