Ford's inflatable seat belt
Buoyed by the number of 2011 Ford Explorer buyers ordering rear inflatable seat belts, the automaker no doubt sees a marketing opportunity ahead – especially with families.
Ford will offer rear inflatable seat belts on the 2013 Ford Flex and on some yet-to-be-named Lincoln vehicles arriving in dealerships next summer. Likely candidates are the 2013 Lincoln MKT three-row luxury crossover, which shares a platform with the Flex, and the Lincoln MKS sedan – although Lincoln has not confirmed which products will receive the system.
The move to expand rear inflatable seat belt availability to other models makes a lot of sense.
Ford, which touts its record of having the most top U.S. safety ratings of any automaker ever, knows families care about safety. The 2011 Ford Explorer, the first Ford vehicle to offer the industry-first rear inflatable seat belts, is a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2011 Ford Flex crossover just recently received the Top Safety Pick designation. In total, Ford has 12 vehicles named as 2011 Top Safety Picks.
So adding rear inflatable seat belts to the all-new (most likely, although no official confirmation or photos yet) 2013 Ford Flex is playing to the automaker’s strengths. After all, they do have a considerable track record in safety developments.
As do other automakers, including General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and BMW, to name a few. But none of the others has come out with a rear inflatable seat belt.
Back to what kinds of safety features Explorer buyers are opting for, Ford’s accumulated buyer statistics appear to show that safety definitely sells. Ford says that 40 percent of the Explorer buyers are parents ordering the rear inflatable seat belts as protection for their children. Early orders (the first 19,000) for the all-new 2011 Explorer include 87 percent of buyers opting to include a rearview camera. Some 40 percent ordered BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert, and about 22 percent of early orders included adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, active park assist and rain-sensing wipers.
As for pricing of the rear inflatable seat belts, Ford says it will keep the advanced restraint system affordable. Again, this all fits into the automaker’s plans to “quickly” expand availability of the already-popular safety feature.