New Explorer Orders Double Ford’s Expectations
By Charles Krome
According to a report this weekend from The Detroit News, Ford has received nearly twice as many orders for its all-new 2011 Explorer as the company originally projected. But the actual numbers may surprise some people: According to the article, the 15,000 or so orders include approximately 3,000 from retail customers and 7,500 from dealers, with the remainder—roughly 4,500—coming from fleet buyers.
It’s good news overall for Ford, but I do have some mixed feelings about that last number. On the one hand, in the context of a (hopefully) improving economy, it makes sense that fleet orders would be on the rise, especially for a vehicle like the next-gen Explorer, which offers both iconic name appeal and an all-new model. But I’m certain Ford is hoping fleet sales will represent significantly less than 30 percent of Explorer purchases once the vehicle actually goes on sale.
Other factoids from the article:
• The “initial popularity” of the Explorer is higher than it was for either the Ford Fiesta or Ford Taurus.
• Almost half of the pre-orders are for the Explorer’s highest trim level, the $40,000 Limited model.
• Nearly two-thirds are for models equipped with all-wheel-drive.
• Almost half of the early customers are adding nav systems.
• 87 percent are including the MyFord Touch connectivity setup.
• 55 percent of these initial orders are for vehicles with Ford’s trailering package.
• The new Explorer has 75,000 Facebook fans.
Some of Ford’s interpretations of these numbers were interesting as well. For example, Jason Mase, the Blue Oval’s manager of utility vehicles, was indirectly quoted as saying the high number of Explorers ordered with trailering equipment suggests that buyers “continue to view the vehicle as a capable SUV.” Maybe, but that quote also suggests that Ford is still coming to grips with the whole crossover vs. SUV thing. After all, the very next line of the article states that “Ford executives say consumers don’t care whether an SUV is a car or a truck, as long as their needs are met.” Clearly, they mean that “customers don’t care whether a vehicle is a unibody crossover or a body-on-frame SUV, as long as their needs are met,” but saying that would be admitting the Explorer is the former instead of the latter.
One of the other more significant changes for the 2011 Explorer is what will be under its hood—and what won’t. Ford is dropping the V8 from the spec sheet and adding a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Ecoboost to go with an improved 3.5-liter V6. This will be an interesting test for the Ecoboost, as it’s expected to be sold primarily on fuel efficiency in the Explorer. In vehicles like the Flex and Taurus SHO, the focus with the Ecoboost is on improved power, with improved efficiency being an additional bonus. Needless to say, and as Mase indicates, demand for a four-cylinder Explorer will depend on gas prices.
I guess we’ll find out once the 2011 Ford Explorer goes on sale early next year.