• May 13, 2007


It looks like the age of the traditional body-on-frame SUV is coming to a close for most mainstream customers. While there will continue to be a market for big SUVs like the Tahoe and Expedition for customers who actually need to haul or tow stuff, many customers in the high volume mid-sized segment are realizing they can get by with something a little smaller and lot more fuel efficient.

The Ford Explorer dominated SUV sales charts throughout the 1990s and into the first part of this decade with sales of 445,157 in 2000. In the last couple of years, however, Explorer sales have tanked seeing it drop from first to fourth on the sales charts. Last year ,sales dipped to 179, 229 and the freefall shows no signs of letting up. The numbers are down another twenty-three percent so far this year.

On the flipside, sales of the redesigned Honda CR-V are up forty-two percent so far this year and it has jumped to the number one spot on the chart followed by the Toyota RAV-4 and Ford Escape, with the new Ford Edge coming on strong as well. The CR-V is doing so well that Honda is having to consider how to increase volume to meet the demand. For the first time, the automaker has started importing extra units from Japan to supplement the main production facility in East Liberty Ohio. Ford has already announced plans to move the Explorer to a unit-body crossover platform, which can't happen soon enough. The only problem will be finding a place to fit into a lineup already filled with the Escape, Edge, Flex and Taurus X.

[Source: Bloomberg]


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  • 50 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ford really needs to re-balance their product line. They can't realistically expect an entire lineup of overlapping products to all sell well.

      My next-door neighbor had an Edge for a week or so as a rental (weird, I know), and that was the closest I've gotten to one: I wouldn't drive it, but it's a very handsome vehicle, admittedly. The safety razor motif actually works.

      The Taurus-X and Flex, however, are really going to cause problems. They're way too similar to each other, and probably stepping on the toes of the Edge. That's WAY too much lineup overlap. Keeping the Explorer around much longer (even if only in name, not so much as a "truck") is going to make this situation worse.

      Like #1 said, new explorers are surprisingly rare. The only ones I ever see are at the dealer down the street with promises of giant discounts written on the windshield.

      I don't want the big 2.5 to die, necessarily, but at this rate, they're doing it to themselves. This is exactly more of the same that got Ford where it is today.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Are you kidding? The CR-V is a horrible looking vehicle. I would not ever purchase one, a trailblazer is a much nicer vehicle as far as power and materials.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Okay, we *really* need to discuss your use of the word "ute', because you're not using it correctly here at all. The "U" in SUV does not translate to the vehicle qualifying as a "ute". They are not the same thing, and this really needs to stop right now before the misuse becomes commonplace.

      A ute is either a traditional pickup truck, or a car-based coupe-utility, such as the El Camino, Holden Ute or Ford Falcon Ute.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickup_truck#The_Australian_ute

      CR-V, Explorer, RAV, Expedition, Tahoe, Escape... all mentioned in the article but not one of these qualifies as a "ute".
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think Ford should move the explorer to Bronco territory, reclaim the off-road niche. Or, ax the explorer and bring on the bronco concept that generated so much buzz to compete with the FJ. There can only be so many people movers in a lineup, and Ford is definitely pushing some limit.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I see more new Explorers than new CR-Vs where I live. But I also live in Texas (Ford Chevy country).
      • 7 Years Ago
      If the 5.4 V8 is standard in the expedition, why isn't the 4.6 V8 standard in the explorer. Ford could differentiate by axle ratio, 3.55 for 4x2 and 3.73 for 4x4.
      The edge has the 3.5, the escape has the 3.0 (but needs a 6 speed auto)
      • 7 Years Ago
      #26 - There are plenty of compact CUVs that appeal to more than the blind. There are more options than CR-V vs. 6000 lb SUV.

      Why get a CR-V when you can get a far-superior Mazda CX-7 or Hyundai Tucson? The new Mercury Mariner and Saturn Vue also seem better than the CR-V.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Explorer is no beauty contestant either folks, it's basically become a car that looks like a truck and gets very poor mpg.

      Times are changing, the increased cost of energy is forcing consumers to adapt, who didn't see this coming at Ford and GM and why not?
      • 7 Years Ago
      " Ford should move the explorer to Bronco territory"

      Seriously. Even the FJ pretty much leaves the wrangler as the only pure 4x4 on the market. (I say that as a 'yota guy, with an FJ40 parked outside. I was obviously hoping for a very different vehicle from toyota.)

      They also should have worked just a bit more on getting the LR defender back to the states. Both of those vehicles would have been good niche halo vehicles that got young kids and us older kids interested in ford products again.

      On the other hand, I hate pretty much all vehicles made today, and think we need smaller, simpler, higher-quality vehicles with historical styling rather than overstuffed plastic techno-pods, so perhaps my perspective on the market isn't particularly useful.

      Cheers,
      prat
      • 7 Years Ago
      @Phil - I think you hit the nail on the head right there. Ford shouldn't be mkaing the Explorer into just another people mover. It has been around for so long as an SUV it needs to stay that way.

      Making it into an FJ/Wrangler/H4 competeitor is what needs to happen. Ford tries to hard to appeal to everybody with every product and they come up short all to often.

      By focusing certain products to certain niches they will have a better lineup and better sales because of it.

      So Ford: enough with the people movers!! We need more fun cars that AREN'T a new rendition of the Mustang
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why does the new explorer sport a VOLKSWAGEN Chrome double-grille???
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think that GM has done a much better job of avoiding overlap in their SUV lineup, as each brand only has the crossover (acadia, for example) and body-on-frame (trailblazer). It could be debated, however, that GM shouldn't have so many brands with nearly identical vehicles (although more unique than a fusion vs milan).

      If you look at other manufacturers, such as Hyundai or Toyota, there is some overlap (Santa Fe vs Veracruz, Rav4 vs Highlander vs FJ Cruiser) but there are distinct differences. I don't see that going forward in the Ford lineup.
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