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.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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2 Comments

  1. ““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.”

    Grand Cherokee’s are not body on frame but I think they are clearly and SUV. V8, tow rating of 6500lb (2002 model). I don’t get why the frame is in this discussion. You could just as easily weld the body of a Suburban to the frame and it would still be a SUV. This is strictly about how “heavy” the chassis is, suspension geometry, etc, not the design basis of the body and frame. An El Camino has a body on frame and has a pickup bed but is still clearly a car. Would any one call it a truck? An SUV looks like one, taller and boxier like an enclosed truck. A crossover looks like a car on stilts, in other words people see that its really just a hatchback car jacked up. The un-informed probably do not think the Honda pilot and the Honda Odyssey share the same platform. Plus, isn’t the Pilot considered an SUV? The point is, Ford is finally moving into the late 20th century for the Explorer with regards to chassis design instead of the cash cow body on frame SUV of the 90’s based on mid 20th century chassis design. If it is an SUV it’s and SUV. Ford needs to get over its concern. On Toyota’s web site they list the Venza under the car link and the Highlander under the SUV and van link. How about Ford gets moves beyond the crossover fad (stupid new names to create a new segment aka BMW) and calls it like it is SUV/Van/Truck (a utility vehicle) or Car (passenger vehicle with much less utility). The new Explorer is an SUV not a car and therefore not a crossover. I like it and may even buy it next year. Why, because it is a modern SUV, one that should have existed 20 years ago.

  2. From what I read it could be wrong, but the new Explorer which I like is ‘only 100lbs lighter than the old one!

    I mean a front wheel drive without a frame is only 100lbs lighter!

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