Ford just recalled 634,000 vehicles. These were 2020-2023 Bronco Sport and Escape SUVs with a 3-cylinder, 1.5-liter engine. Some of the same vehicles were recalled in April. That is an ugly track record for the two SUVs. Reuters reports as many as 54 of these vehicles have already had reports of engines that caught on fire. The number seems low–except for the people who own them.
Ford has been dogged by poor manufacturing to the extent that it may have hurt sales. The Wall Street Journal published a brutal takedown of Ford in August. It was titled “At Ford, Quality Is Now Problem 1”. The article was extremely long and extremely damning. Ford needs to rush to find solutions. The authors of the WSJ story wrote, “The problems also raise the stakes for the 119-year-old company as it tries to snatch new customers interested in EVs.” For the time being, Ford is the recall king of the U.S. car industry.
Ford has already fumbled its EV launches. Its Mustang Mach-E has been greeted with high demand. This was almost certainly dampened when Ford unexpectedly raised the price for the crossover by $3,000 to $8,000. Ford management did not anticipate supply chain trouble and “rapidly evolving market conditions.” The second part of the excuse could not be vaguer.
Ford’s best shot at a major EV success is its F-150 Lightning. The F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in America for four decades. At least six million remain on the road. It would be hard to find a customer base this large. Ford suddenly raised the Lightning price by as much as $8,000. It could not have invented another way to undermine customer demand, even if Ford management tried its hardest.
Ford management, particularly Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, who has had a mediocre track record since he took over as the head of the company on January 1, 1999, understands that customers only have so much patience. His name is on the company’s front door and on every vehicle it sells. Huge recalls erode confidence in car manufacturers as much or more than any other event. Even more than when a company suddenly raises prices.
Lurking in the backs of the minds of some Ford owners is whether their Fords are safe or not. It makes for a tough job keeping loyal customers, or winning new ones.
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