Ford Motor Co. debuted its redesigned Explorer sport-utility vehicle Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, adding a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine that is also available in its Mustang sports car and added a new top trim line called “Platinum.”
The Explorer has been one of Ford’s most successful vehicles ever and the company has sold more than 7 million since the vehicle debuted 25 years ago. Visually, the 2016 model-year vehicle looks largely the same as the current model, but it will add technologies like a hands-free, foot-activated lift gate and grille shutters that open and close to improve aerodynamics. The vehicle goes on sale in the second half of next year.
“It’s the spiritual leader for our utilities,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s global marketing chief in an interview. “We are selling every Explorer that we can make, and it’s important because of the price point.”
Ford didn’t disclose the pricing on the Platinum Explorer, but the Limited Edition and Sport Explorers today can cost around $50,000 and the new trim line pushes the pricing higher.
The Explorer acts as the top of its SUV line and has long been popular in the U.S. Ford said the company is on track to sell more than 180,000 Explorers in the U.S. in 2014. In recent years, Ford has begun exporting the model to China. Indeed, it is among the top exported vehicles in the U.S. from any company. Ford said it expects to export 56,000 Explorers from the U.S. this year.
The 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine should provide the vehicle with a fuel efficient option that still provides strong performance.
The vehicle is now built in Chicago, Venezuela and Russia. Mr. Farley declined to say whether Ford is considering capacity expansions for the vehicle.
“Ford’s revamped Explorer launches into a market hungry for SUVs,” said Karl Brauer, Kelley Blue Book’s senior analyst. U.S. sales of utilities are up 12% from January through October, according to Autodata Corp., compared with overall industry sales growth of 5.5%.