The 2011 Ford Explorer has just been revealed, and there are some big expectations -- and big hype -- driving the announcement.
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The company hopes to convince buyers to pay more for less engine power, Bloomberg reports. USA Today calls it "an evolved SUV" and notes that Ford will heavily promote the new model's improved fuel efficiency. Here's more on Ford's strategy from the AP:
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.