2002-2005 Thunderbird Replacement Parts – What Ford Won’t Tell You – If you own a 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird and recently needed to find an OEM replacement part, you already know the painful truth … most factory replacement parts are out of production and no longer available.
The 11th generation, 2002-2005 Thunderbirds are now between 11-14 years old. Auto makers typically stock enough spare parts to last 7-10 years, though there isn’t a specific requirement for how many parts a car maker must produce, nor how long replacement parts must remain available.
While this problem can be a dilemma for the owner of any car or truck over 10 years old, it’s an especially difficult situation for owners of 2002-2005 Thunderbirds. Why?
First, the 2002-2005 Thunderbird was a relatively low-production vehicle, with only 68,098 built during the four model years. Compare those numbers with say the new Ford Mustang, where production is in the hundreds of thousands every year. Second, Thunderbird owners tend to keep their cars longer than the average car owner. Though not yet considered a ‘classic,’ the 11th generation is highly collectible, particularly the very low-production ‘Feature Cars’ such as the 2002 Neiman-Marcus, 2003 James Bond 007, 2004 ‘Pacific Coast Roadster,’ the the 2005 ’50th Anniversary Cashmere.’
Another factor impacting the availability and supply of replacement parts for the Thunderbird relates to the 2007-2009 economic downturn. While Ford Motor Company did not accept government ‘bail out’ funds, there were financial consequences for Ford. And though Ford remained solvent and continued to produce new cars and trucks, many of their suppliers and vendors did not fare as well. Many went out of business and several went bankrupt. One case in point is the supplier who built the hard tops for the Thunderbird.
The combination of low production and suppliers’ problems created an especially acute situation. As the 2002-2005 Thunderbirds continue to age, the parts shortage is becoming an increasingly severe problem for owners. And most Thunderbird owners aren’t even aware of the problem until they need an OEM replacement part. When Ford dealers advise owners that a needed part has been discontinued, or is ‘obsolete,’ and ‘no longer serviced by Ford,’ many Thunderbird owners turn to the internet to search for parts. At first glance, it appears that ‘discontinued’ parts are readily available from various Ford dealers and online auto parts retailers. But as many a Thunderbird owner has discovered to his or her dismay, many parts listed are in fact not available.
Why do Ford dealers and online retailers list parts for sale that aren’t available?
A good question. Many Ford dealers and online auto parts companies list the entire catalog of replacement parts. Until a customer places an order for a specific part, and the dealer or retailer discovers it’s no longer available, it may continue to be listed long after remaining inventory is sold out. Some dealers and other retailers will indicate that a certain part is ‘Discontinued and no longer available for purchase.’ Others, however, will allow customers to place an order, add the item to their ‘shopping cart,’ and pay for it. In most cases, the customer will get a refund within a few days. But that’s little consolation for the Thunderbird owner who can’t find a needed part.
Can’t Ford manufacture more replacement parts for the Thunderbird?
They could, but they don’t. Once suppliers and outsource vendors fulfill their existing contracts, any decision to do additional production runs is up to them. Due to the high cost of production, and minimum required production volumes, it’s not usually cost-effective for suppliers to do additional runs. Since all tooling is owned by Ford, once a supplier ends production of a particular part, the tooling is typically returned to Ford. If no supplier or licensee expresses an interest in using the tooling, it’s usually destroyed by Ford, making future production impossible.
But my Ford dealer tells me the part is on ‘back order.’
Ford, along with other auto makers, manages its parts inventory using a centralized, nationwide computer system. When a part is out of stock, it’s initially listed as ‘back ordered’ on the computer inventory system, often with a date when the part will be available. Dealers can place orders for back ordered parts, and during the ‘back order’ period, and if there is sufficient demand for a particular part, Ford may contact the original supplier and request additional parts. But the final decision as to whether or not to do additional production runs is typically up to the supplier, and suppliers usually need to meet a minimum order quantity or ‘MOQ,’ to justify the cost of set up and production. That ‘MOQ’ may be hundreds, if not thousands of units. Demand, however, may be well under 100 units, far less than the supplier needs to make a production run viable or profitable.
I waited until the ‘Back Order’ date, but it was pushed back. What does that mean?
Ford often ‘pushes back’ or sets new back order dates waiting for a sufficient number of orders to justify and new production run. It’s not uncommon for a back order date to be set and reset several times. After a part’s back order date has been rescheduled two or more times, the computer system may show no production date. This usually means that the part will never be produced again. Unfortunately, Ford doesn’t always provide accurate and reliable information to its dealers. That leaves anxious Thunderbird owners waiting, often for weeks or even months, for a part that will never be produced.
Why doesn’t Ford just tell dealers and customers that backordered parts won’t be made?
The decision as to whether or not to produce a back ordered part may be a lengthy process. Ford may wait several months in expectation of a sufficient number of orders to justify a new production run, and sometimes back-ordered parts are eventually manufactured. The problem for Thunderbird owners, however, is there’s no way to know for certain which, if any back ordered parts will even become available again.
From ‘Back Ordered’ to ‘Obsolete.’ What does it mean?
After a replacement part has been listed as ‘back ordered’ for an extended time, it may eventually be classified as ‘obsolete.’ This means that the part is out of stock, unavailable, and ‘no longer serviced by Ford.’ This is a polite way of saying, “You won’t ever get the part you’ve been waiting for.”
My Thunderbird has been in the shop for months waiting for a part. What can I do?
Sadly, there aren’t many options. Your choices fall into one of the following categories:
- Continue to wait in hopes that the part you need will eventually become available.
- Try to find the part yourself either online or through an auto dismantler or salvage yard.
- Try to live with your Thunderbird without the part if it’s not absolutely necessary to keep it running.
- Sell or trade-in your Thunderbird for a newer car.
Isn’t Ford obligated to continue to provide replacement parts for Thunderbird owners?
In a word … no. Sad as it may be, neither Ford nor any other auto maker is legally obligated to continue to produce and supply OEM replacement parts for any vehicle indefinitely. You can complain to your Ford dealer, or try to reach Ford management, but it probably won’t make any difference.
My Thunderbird is not drivable because I can’t get the part I need, but I love the car and don’t want to sell it. What can I do?
Contact us! Powersport/Thunderbird Specialties has been providing custom accessories, performance upgrades and OEM replacement parts exclusively for the 2002-2005 Thunderbird since 2001. We have the largest selection of products and replacement parts available anywhere, with over 340 unique products to choose from!
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