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Exit the Explorer

Territory turf: the US Explorer is disappearing for good over the horizon.

Ford Explorer SUV in no man’s land as Falcon wagon survives - for now

26 May 2005

THE fate of Ford’s slow-selling Explorer four-wheel drive wagon will be decided within months.

The arrival of the best-selling, Broadmeadows-built Territory has dealt an enormous blow to the American-built Explorer, which according to VFACTS industry figures found just 165 buyers in the first four months of this year.

This is well short of the 8000 Territorys sold year-to-date and down from the 400 Explorers sold over the same period last year.

Last year, Ford sold less than 900 Explorers for the full year against more than 13,000 Territorys, which only went on sale in June 2004.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman said last week the time had come to decide what to do with the V8-powered off-roader.

He said the Explorer’s position in the line-up needed to be clarified and "whether it makes sense now given the success we’ve seen around it", referring to the success of the Territory.

"We’ll be in a position to take that decision in the next two or three months," he said. "We have to decide whether there is a place for it in the total line-up."On sale here since 1996, originally with a 4.0-litre V6 engine, the Explorer was initially a popular choice with buyers with more than 3500 units sold in 1997 and 1998. Since then, sales have dropped consistently to below 2000 a year, even with a 4.6-litre V8 engine added to the range in 2001.

Currently, Explorer is part of Ford Australia’s 4/6/8 off-road marketing strategy, a reference to the four-cylinder Escape, six-cylinder Territory and V8 Explorer. This is now under review.

Similar concerns about the viability of the Falcon station wagon have also been raised since the Territory was launched, however Mr Gorman said last week its future was assured – at least in the short term.

He said Territory had tended to erode sales of the Falcon sedan, rather than wagon, which was the anticipated outcome.

"It’s about where we thought it would be," he said. "When you do a product program you plan a certain amount of substitution and then you also look at where you think you’re going to draw from.

"In our case, the primary area we expected to draw from was Falcon (sedan).

"The only thing we were surprised by is that we haven’t drawn from the wagon. The wagon is still motoring along."

27 center imageMr Gorman attributed the station wagon’s stability to the buyer type. Most wagon sales were to fleet buyers, who based their purchase purely on a practical, value decision.

"It is still the right product for that segment and continues to motor along with about 1000 sales a month," he said.

Mr Gorman admitted that some private wagon buyers may have substituted into a Territory, but said the strength of the wagon market remained with fleets.

"Clearly it makes the argument for keeping it stronger, because it continues to be a good solution for a certain segment of the marketplace," he said.

"We’re not forced to make a decision immediately, so we’ve got some time to go forward and continue to look at where the wagon market is."

The Explorer Chart

1997 3823
1998 3509
1999 1812
2000 1498
2001 1387
2002 1869
2003 1467
2004 891 YTD
Source: VFACTS

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