DEARBORN - Since its re-launch in December of 2010, the Ford Explorer continues to generate excitement among consumers. And that excitement translates into robust sales for Ford.
According to Ford U.S. Sales Analyst Erich Merkle, year-to-date sales of the Ford Explorer are up 22 percent over last year.
“We expect 2013 to be the best year ever for the new Explorer,” he said. “Sales just continue to climb higher and higher.”
What’s behind the Explorer’s success and longevity in the full-size SUV market?
Explorer Consumer Marketing Manager Dan Corsetti says the answer is rooted in the vehicle’s heritage.
“Explorer is an incredibly iconic brand with 93 percent familiarity – the third highest in the Ford showroom behind Mustang and F-Series,” he said. “You say Explorer and everybody knows what it is, and they attribute it to Ford Motor Company.”
The 2011 Explorer signaled a major reinvention for the brand, as the architecture of the vehicle moved from a truck-based platform to a more modern car-like base.
“It was a massive leap forward for us in terms of technology, driving dynamics and fuel economy. It really reinvented the Explorer as well as the segment it helped create,” said Corsetti.
Corsetti says when Ford “reinvented” the Explorer it took the whole full-size SUV segment forward.
“We put in an interior that is in a class by itself in terms of luxury and refinement,” he said. “And everybody loves the exterior design.”
Corsetti says he believes Explorer sales continue to grow because the Product Development team refuses to become complacent.
“I really do attribute it to constant improvement – constantly doing something to the product to make it better, move it forward and keep consumers interested in it,” he said.
Examples of enhancements include:
• Rear inflatable seatbelts, an industry-first safety feature
• 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which brought best-in-class fuel economy with
28 mpg highway
• Lane Keep Assist
• Heated Steering Wheel
•Power Tilt and Telescoping Wheel
According to Corsetti, the Explorer has a high conquest rate among luxury customers.
“We put a lot of care into making sure that the interior environment and the features are consistent with what people could get in a luxury nameplate,” he said. “We want to make sure the experience they have in the Explorer is up to their standards and expectations.”
Corsetti says he believes the introduction of the 2013 Explorer Sport has also gone a long way to keep the Explorer brand energized.
“The Explorer Sport has been red hot since we launched it,” he said. “There’s nothing like it in the segment.”
The Explorer Sport is so hot, says Corsetti, that vehicles are only lasting 15 days on dealer lots.
“It’s unbelievable how fast they’re moving. The only other vehicle doing the same is the Raptor,” he said. “It’s just doing great things for the Explorer brand.”
Sales Success with Low Incentives
Explorer has not achieved sales success through heavy discounting. On the contrary, says Corsetti.
“The pull on Explorer has been so enormous that these cars are turning on dealer lots with close to the lowest incentives in their segment,” he said. “And our transaction price far exceeds most other competitors. That’s because we have the Limited and the Sport series which provide a lot of high-end features that customers are willing to pay for.”
Corsetti says Explorers are turning on dealer lots in 27 days. The next highest in the segment is 54 days.
“Three years in since re-launch, we’re literally turning twice as fast as any competitor in the segment. That really is attributed to the incredibly high and sustained demand for the product. As soon as we build them and get them out there they’re turning just as fast as can be.”
Year-to-date Explorer has remained the No. 1 large utility nameplate. And both the East and West Coast regions of the country have seen a growth in sales each year since the re-launch.
“Bi-coastal strategy is so important for Ford,” said Corsetti. “In the West, Explorer retail sales are up 26 percent year-to-date versus the same time last year and in the East they are up 28 percent. Those are our two fastest growing markets, which is just awesome.”