Ford Explorer: Can This SUV Get Back To "Riding" High?

2008 Ford Explorer Concept
2008 Ford Explorer Concept

Have you seen the Ford Explorer lately? The current model shows just how far the once vaunted SUV has plunged, while the new Explorer America Concept is a vision of where sport utilities and Ford may be headed in the future.

The Explorer concept, which will be shown at the Detroit Auto Show next weekend, is different with backseat doors that open like minivan doors, a navigation "globe" and considerably more fuel efficient engines than the current 6 and 8 cylinder models. Keep in mind it's a concept. Many of its features will never see the light of day, but others could be incorporated into future Explorers.

As intriguing as the Explorer's future is, its decline since the Firestone tire controversy in 2000 and 2001 has been just as stunning. Ford once sold more than 400,000 Explorers and it was in many ways, America's SUV. Wherever you drove, it seemed like the Explorer dominated the road.

Not anymore. Last year, Ford sold 138,000 Explorers, a drop of 26 percent. The shift in demand from SUV's to crossovers and a slew of new competitors, have cut into Explorer sales.

Last year, Toyota sold 181,000 Prius hybrids. 50,000 more than than the Explorer. A sign of just how much things have changed at Ford and in the auto world. Now we'll see if the changes exemplified in the Explorer America concept can revive an SUV no longer riding as high.

Questions? Comments?