Ford is holding back newly built 2002 Ford Explorers at the factory until early February to avoid embarrassing recalls, reports Automotive News.

Production began in limited quantities at the Louisville, Kentucky factory in November and about 400 were built last week. Production will begin at a second factory in January.

Automotive News says that Ford wants to avoid more of the product recalls that have dogged the company recently. The new Escape SUV, launched in August, has already been recalled five times.

Ford will slow the Explorer production ramp-up, add technical engineers from suppliers to the launch team and retain newly built Explorers at the factory to ensure quality, the company reportedly said last week.

"We want these vehicles to be absolutely immaculate when they leave our hands,'' Automotive News quoted Martin Inglis, vice president of Ford North America, as saying.

"We are holding them in the yard so that in the unlikely event there is an issue that we discover, we are not chasing all over the place trying to find it.''

Shipments to dealers will begin in the second half of February.