DEARBORN, Mich. — The Ford Explorer, the hulking family-hauler that helped launch the SUV boom in the early 1990s, is back. And it hopes to define a new generation of more streamlined, fuel-efficient sport utility vehicles.
Ford begins a marketing campaign Monday for the 2011 Ford Explorer, which will be in dealerships this winter. It’s an important vehicle for the automaker. Ford says the Explorer is its best-known product after the Mustang.
“Explorer is really still the backbone of the brand,” Ford’s marketing chief Jim Farley said recently at a gathering to introduce the Explorer to the media.
The new Explorer has been completely redesigned. The most obvious difference: It’s built on a car platform, not a truck one, so it sits lower to the ground and has a smoother, more fuel-efficient ride.
Ford is taking a risk with customers who expect a truck-like SUV. The new Explorer will have less towing capacity than the outgoing model — 5,000 pounds, versus 7,115 pounds — and it won’t offer a V-8 engine.
“Ford’s challenge is to match the idea of the Explorer to this product,” said Aaron Bragman, an analyst with IHS Automotive. “It’s a good test for Ford to determine what an SUV is these days.”
Trends in the market suggest most buyers aren’t looking for the power of traditional SUVs and would prefer a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst George Pipas said that a decade ago, 85 percent of all SUVs sold were truck-based; last year, just 23 percent were.
Posted By: GC