With the introduction of the 2011 Ford Explorer, Ford will have three different crossover utility vehicles—Explorer, Edge, and Flex—all selling beside each other at showrooms, all approximately the same size, and with two of the three (the Explorer and Flex) on the same platform as the Taurus sedan.
Is there room for a third model without cannibalizing sales for the others? That's what TheCarConnection.com asked Ford sales analyst George Pipas, who had just finished a discussion on market growth for small cars—including that Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) expects U.S. sales of small vehicles (cars and crossovers combined) to grow to 36 percent of the market by 2013.
"If we're right about the 36 percent, that still means that 64 percent is medium and large, at least in the next five years," said Pipas. "Yes, we expect small cars to grow more. But there will still be plenty of mediums and larges rolling around," and it will take multiple models to meet a wide range of shopper needs, he explained.
One of those medium utility vehicles will be the 2011 Explorer. "We believe there's a market, for people who are living a lifestyle of adventure," said Pipas. "But we've got to make this thing fuel-efficient because if it's only 19 [mpg], then that's not the direction we're headed. It has to be something jaw-dropping."
Ford has said very little yet about the 2011 Ford Explorer officially, though with this week's announcement that it will be built in Chicago, it said that the new utility vehicle will have "unibody construction, Ford’s EcoBoost engine technology, a six-speed transmission and lightweight materials."