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New Explorer's message: Utility with mpg


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New Explorer's message: Utility with mpg

Farley plans to talk up vehicle's fuel-efficiency with Facebook friends

Jamie LaReau

Automotive News -- July 26, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. initially will use only social media to advertise its redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer. The message will be unique for a vehicle that hasn't been known as an industry leader in fuel efficiency: It's possible to have off-road and towing capability in a family vehicle -- and save at the pump.

"Our job is to be a myth-buster," says Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, sales and service. "We have to let the people know what the Explorer has become."

What the 2011 Explorer has become is a crossover engineered on a car-based platform rather than a truck-derived SUV. It shares its platform with the Ford Taurus sedan.

The myth, Farley says, is that the Explorer can't also be a family vehicle that gets good fuel economy. Farley says it's his job over the next six months to change that view, and Ford will rely heavily on social media so it can talk directly with its customers.

"Having a conversation online with community leaders and people who really care about this vehicle is really valuable," Farley says. "It helps me myth-bust."

After months of teasing the Explorer to its Facebook friends -- now about 30,000, Ford says -- Ford plans to reveal the redesigned Explorer to the public today, July 26. Ford has used a heavy online promotion aimed at targeting 50 million people who could choose to go to Facebook for more information on the vehicle.

It's the first time an automaker has revealed a redesigned vehicle online rather than at an auto show.

Ford will use some traditional TV and print advertising when the Explorer goes on sale this winter. Pricing has not been announced.

The 2011 Explorer underscores a new reality in the U.S. marketplace: Demand for truck-based SUVs has collapsed, while sales of car-based, fuel-efficient crossovers have soared.

In its new generation, the Explorer no longer will offer an optional V-8 engine. Instead, it will offer a 3.5-liter V-6 as standard and an optional two-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Ford estimates that 140,000 consumers consider buying an Explorer each year. While many of those like the vehicle's capability, they wanted better fuel economy, Farley says.

The new engines "will reinforce that Ford is putting its money where its mouth is on fuel economy," he says.

The current Explorer, equipped with two-wheel drive and a four-liter V-6 standard, is rated at 14 mpg city/20 highway. With a 30 percent increase in fuel economy, the EcoBoost-equipped Explorer should deliver 18/26.

The 3.5-liter V-6 will deliver a 20 percent improvement compared with the current V-6.

The 2011 Explorer seats seven and offers new safety features such as inflatable rear seat belts. It has a collision warning system and curve control, a driving sensor that slows the vehicle around sharp curves if it senses the driver is losing control.

Farley declines to provide a sales target for the new Explorer but says it should outsell the current model. Ford sold 52,190 Explorers last year.

Ford sees the Honda Pilot, Toyota 4Runner and GMC Acadia as the main competitors to the Explorer.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100726/RETAIL03/307269979/1254#ixzz0unRyWdFt

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New Ford Explorer: Will its gas mileage gains sell?

12:01 AM

Can the SUV be reinvented for a new fuel-thrifty age? That's what Ford is trying to figure out as it unveils the new Explorer as a crossover model, seen here officially for the first time. The vehicle will have a V-6 version will get 20% better fuel economy than the outgoing model, and the turbocharged version will 30% better fuel economy, Ford says.

"The all-new Explorer will deliver today's SUV buyers the attributes they really want and value, and a few they might not even have dreamed of," said Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas.

Explorer tries to achieve better fuel economy than either Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot with engineering touches like twin independent variable camshaft timing, a six speed automatic transmission, low rolling resistance tires, electric power steering and better aerodynamics.

By switching to a crossover unibody instead of a traditional body-on-frame of a truck, Explorer will weigh 100 pounds less than the outgoing model. Ford took extra measures to reduce weight like adding an aluminum hood.

Explorer V-6 models are available with an "intelligent" four-wheel-drive system that lets the driver choose the mode --snow, sand, mud and normal. This system also includes a hill descent mode.

Explorer will be built at Ford's Chicago plant.



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