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Ford Betting On Safety Technology To Rebuild Explorer Brand

Maker emphasizing safety to expand definition of quality and reliability.

by on Oct.21, 2010

Ford is betting on safety advances to help rebuild demand for the once-dominant Explorer.

When Ford Motor Co. launches its complete redesign of the Explorer sport-utility vehicle for 2011, the maker will be aiming to rebuild a once-dominant franchise that has become little more than an also-ran in the huge multi-purpose vehicle market.

The new model shifts gears in a number of ways.  A critical part of the redesign was moving from a truck-based body-on-frame platform to a car-like chassis borrowed – and then heavily modified – from the Taurus sedan.  Ford will emphasize the best-of-all-worlds capabilities of the 2011 Explorer.

But it will put a particular premium on pitching the new crossover/SUV’s safety technology –notably including some key features making their worldwide debut on the 2011 Explorer.  That strategy, the company hopes, will help overcome a lingering bad taste in the market that was caused by the Firestone tire fiasco, nearly a decade ago, when wags dubbed the long-popular vehicle, the “Ford Exploder.”

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The 2011 Ford Explorer offers a wide array of the latest technology, from electronic stability control to cross-traffic alert, a radar-based system that can spot oncoming traffic when a motorist is backing out of a parking spot.  That technology underscores several trends in the overall car market, and at Ford in particular.

Cross-traffic alert first debuted on the re-make of the BMW 7-Series, two years ago, but was quickly added to the Ford Taurus.  Traditionally, technology advances were launched on high-line models, like BMW’s, and then it would take years to slowly migrate down to the mainstream market.  Ford has not only been pushing to shorten that cycle but to actually take the lead with technology that luxury makers will need to catch up on.