By all accounts, the 2012 Ford Focus is a sales success. Just a few months after the car’s launch, it’s become the best-selling passenger car in Ford’s lineup, and inventory is often sold before it hits the dealer’s showroom. Still, Chevy sold 3,500 more units of its rival 2011 Chevrolet Cruze last month, and the Cruze assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio, is running three shifts to meet demand. Ford’s Focus assembly plant, in Wayne, Mich., is only running two shifts and is nowhere near capacity.
Why can’t Ford ramp up capacity to meet consumer demand? According to a report from the Associated Press, the holdup is with a component supplier that manufactures Focus dashboard assemblies. Machinery that produces the dashboard skin only functions on an intermittent basis, which is forcing the automaker to import parts from Europe to keep assembly lines functioning. Since dashboard assemblies are bulky components, importing them from Europe is a costly proposition that Ford wants to remediate as quickly as possible.
A fix for the existing hardware is under development, but a permanent solution has yet to be found. Ford spokesman Todd Nissen would neither confirm nor deny the issue, saying only that it’s Ford’s policy not to comment on internal workings at its plants.
The obvious fix would be to upgrade the machinery at the domestic supplier’s plant to match what’s being used in Europe, but we suspect that it’s not as simple as that. No matter what the underlying cause is, unless Ford can ramp up production of the Focus it’s likely that they’ll continue to lose sales ground to the Chevy Cruze. With Japanese automakers close to reaching pre-disaster capacities, selling the Focus isn’t going to get any easier in the near future.
[AP via Boston Herald]