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Lincoln Claims MKZ Production Finally Up to Normal

Supply crisis short-circuited critical sedan’s launch.

by on Mar.25, 2013

The new Lincoln MKZ should reach normal levels of inventory in the coming weeks.

It was billed as the most important product new product roll-out in decades for Lincoln, the 2013 MKZ expected to anchor a wave of new products designed to put the long-suffering domestic luxury brand back on the map.

But things didn’t go right almost for the start for the new sedan, parent Ford Motor Co. putting the brakes on production in a bid to head off troubling signs of potential quality problems. The result was a crash-and-burn that instead of kick-starting Lincoln sales saw them fall to a 32-year low.

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But the maker finally appears to be back on track, a senior official has advised, with production now on a fast increase that should soon see plenty of 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedans in dealer showrooms.

The question, cautioned one insider not officially allowed to speak for the marque, is whether potential buyers have already forgotten about the new model – a situation that could force Lincoln to duplicate the costly ad campaign that marked the originally planned MKZ roll-out, starting with two spots on this year’s Super Bowl.

The production version of the  MKZ staged a flashy debut at the 2012 New York Auto Show and was supposed to start rolling into showrooms before the end of last year. “But we decided to pull back,” said one senior source, when some troubling problems began to surface. Ford faced a series of embarrassing problems with several key 2013 models, notably including the Escape and Fusion which have collectively been the target of a number of recalls.

Ford didn’t want to risk the same problem with Lincoln, something that could have damaged the reputation of the MKZ even before the new sedan had a chance to build some buzz. To help ensure quality, Ford took the unusual step of shipping early production models from the assembly line in Hermosillo, Mexico to its Flat Rock, Michigan factory for a back-up inspection.

Complicating matters, the Mexican plant producing the luxury sedan ran into problems with several suppliers that resulted in unexpected parts shortages.

Meanwhile, demand seemed to dry up for some of Lincoln’s other model lines, including a recently updated MKS, the biggest sedan now in the marque’s line-up. As a result, January seals fell to a 32-year low while February didn’t score much better.

But in a meeting with reporters, Ford’s President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs said production is approaching “more normal levels” and with volumes expected to be where Lincoln had originally planned by late this week, sales are starting to build for the new sedan.

Nonetheless, was told Lincoln is exploring how to get the word out to the market that the MKZ is finally in showrooms. The maker will likely step up its advertising though it is not expected to stage a complete re-do of the costly winter launch campaign.

The MKZ is the first of four all-new vehicles Lincoln is planning to bring to market between now and late next year, the others including a re-make of the MKS, an all-new version of the once-formidable Navigator SUV and a completely new compact crossover based on the MKC concept shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January. Additional models, including a rear-drive sports coupe based on the next-generation Ford Mustang, will follow later in the decade.

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