It spent years at the top of the SUV sales charts before crashing, ignominiously, in the wake of a safety scare. But even before the completely redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer actually rolls into showrooms it’s showing strong signs of success.
With the new crossover-based version of the Explorer not set to roll into showrooms until early next year, Ford dealers have already booked 15,000 advance orders, twice what the maker was anticipating. And buyers appear to be opting for heavily loaded versions of the SUV, which could make the next-generation Explorer a significant source of profits for the resurgent Ford.
If the initial pace of orders holds steady it will serve as justification for the automaker’s risky decision to shift from a traditional, truck-based sport-utility vehicle to a car-like crossover.
Ford has been considering that strategy for some time but ultimately chose to stick with a body-on-frame design for the last Explorer. It might not have made much of a difference in the wake of an unexpected crisis triggered by reports that earlier Explorers were suffering unexpected and catastrophic tire blow-outs that could cause the vehicles to roll over. While sales initially held steady, demand for the Explorer eventually began to tank, and by 2009 volumes had plunged nearly 80%.