Fords latest Explorer is more crossover than SUV

Ford's latest Explorer is more crossover than SUV

Ford is expected to report that 2010 brought the carmaker its biggest profit in a decade and US analyst noted the automaker is on an impressive trajectory.

"Simple economics provide at least part of the picture for why Ford had such a profitable year. With a whittled-down workforce, Ford’s sales climbed 17.6% in 2010 compared with 2009. The average transaction price, meanwhile, rose 7.7% to US $30,313 as [the cost of incentives] for Ford buyers fell 4.5%," Edmunds said.

Ford will release 2010 fourth quarter and full year financial results at noon GMT on Friday (28 January).

Edmunds, which operates a car buyers' advice and vehicle location website, added: "Car buyers in general have grown more curious about what the company had to offer. By the end of 2010, 18.1% of [website] visitors looked at a Ford model, making it the brand’s highest level of consideration ever on the site – and a dramatic increase from 13.5% consideration at the end of 2009.

Ford’s success has also had an undeniable impact on its competition. According to the company’s "cross-shopping metrics", every other automaker – from traditional competitors like Chevy and Dodge, to luxury brands like Audi and Mercedes – has had a noticeable increase in shoppers comparing their models to Ford vehicles in the last year.

 “In 2010 Ford found a way to compete for the hearts and minds of car buyers across all segments,” said Ivan Drury, industry analyst at Edmunds. “That’s a testament to the company’s product development and its aggressive marketing strategy. Ford has done a great job spreading the word about its technology and fuel economy improvements throughout its entire fleet, and those messages are resonating with consumers.”

One way the company hopes to continue the momentum is with the newly redesigned Explorer SUV. As Ford shifted its attention toward cars and crossovers in recent years, the Explorer’s market share of the midsize SUV segment hit an all-time low in 2009 and 2010, hovering below 4% for the first time ever. That’s a far cry from the Explorer’s 12% share of the segment just five years ago, and the 44% share achieved when it was first introduced in 1990.

In 2010, Explorers made up 3.6% of all of Ford’s total sales, down significantly from its peak of 14.7% in 2002.

The model reinvented as a more car like crossover with better handling and fuel economy arrives as market conditions are ripe for the its revival – the overall market share of midsize SUVs has climbed 30% in the last decade.

 “Ford is coming back with a stronger product in a segment that’s taking a greater share of the overall automotive market,” said Drury. “Our data show that consumers are now considering the Explorer much more than they have over the last few years.”