Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas said Thursday that inventory of the new Lincoln MKZ sedan should be back to normal levels by the end of the month.
Joe Hinrichs, speaking after a supplier event at Ford's Dearborn campus, said MKZs are no longer being shipped from an assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, to another plant in Flat Rock for additional inspection and repairs.
"We expect to have a rather large amount of vehicles in the delivery process… in the last 10 days of the month," Hinrichs said. "We should be pretty close to our inventory levels at the end of the month."
Ford officials had previously said they did not expect a full stock of MKZs at dealerships until early April. The all-new vehicle should have fully launched in late 2012, but Ford opted to further inspect the vehicles to ensure a smooth introduction, something the automaker has not had great success doing in recent months.
Ford has never specifically addressed the nature of the problems. "I don't want to blame the supply base," Hinrichs said. "We've had our own internal issues as well."
New MKZs are now being inspected at Hermosillo, expediting the time it takes for the vehicles to go from assembly line to dealership.
"Normal production at Hermosillo is flowing," Hinrichs said of the Mexico plant. "We're just dealing with the backload of the vehicles that needed parts."
Despite the delays, Hinrichs said Ford has minimized the number of customers opting for other brands by offering extended leases until the MKZs reach dealer lots.
Lincoln sales have plummeted because of the MKZ delay. Through the first two months of the year, sales of the brand are down nearly 25 percent. Ford had eyed double-digit sales gains for Lincoln in 2013.
Hinrichs also said Thursday that Ford has begun shipping some Explorer SUVs to China.
The Explorer, built at the automaker's Chicago Assembly Plant, has experienced a recent sales resurgence here in the U.S., with sales up nearly 60 percent in February. Exports to China are also growing.
It's the latest example of Ford's plans to increase exports from the U.S. market, which through business maneuvers and lower worker wages, has become a much more attractive manufacturing region.
"We are increasing our exports from the U.S.," Hinrichs said, noting "It's continuing. It will grow. Obviously, most of our production here will be targeted for sales in North America to fulfill all the growth demand here."
Ford already ships its Edge SUV, built in Canada, to China. Next year, Ford will launch Lincoln products in China. Those Lincoln models will be exported from North America.