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Trucks Rule at Chicago Auto Show – and Across the U.S.

Automakers race to add new products, more capacity.

by on Feb.12, 2016

The Chevrolet Trax is one of the newest utes from GM, and sales are outstripping supply.

Chevrolet faces the sort of challenge most automakers can only dream of. Its various pickup plants are operating at full, three-shift capacity and can’t build any more trucks. If anything, says marketing executive Sandor Piszar, that means the bowtie brand is losing possible sales.

“The toughest part is keeping up with demand,” said Piszar, during a conversation at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show’s media preview. “We’re running flat out at all our plants.”

Picking up on the Trends!

Actually, Chevy isn’t entirely unique. Hyundai is struggling to keep up with demand for utility vehicles like the Tucson, shifting capacity at its plant in Alabama to build more of the mid-range Santa Fe Sport. Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan, with rare exception, every automaker TheDetroitBureau.com spoke with is laying out plans to boost truck capacity and, in many cases, add more truck models.

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SUV Sales To Keep Growing, Ford Adding Four More Utes

Industry shifts product mix to reflect changing consumer demand.

by on Jan.14, 2016

Ford President Hinrichs, in white shirt, at the launch of the 2015 Edge utility-vehicle.

Light trucks sales surged to record numbers last year, and the shift from passenger cars to pickups, vans, and utility vehicles is far from over, or so Ford Motor Co. is betting as it realigns its future product plans.

The Detroit automaker is now planning to add at least four new SUVs over the next “few years,” a senior executive said this week, though President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs wouldn’t provide specific details on their roll-out.

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But the move is an inevitable reflection of industry trends, Hinrichs told TheDetroitBureau.com. “We see a lot of growth. SUVs were 30% of the industry last year but could go to 40%” before the end of the decade.

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Ford Betting on New Safety, Connectivity Tech to Boost Escape’s Appeal

Ford betting SUV update will deliver new sales records.

by on Nov.17, 2015

The 2016 Ford Escape gets a new grille and revised tail, though the focus is on technology.

It may be the maker’s smallest SUV, but it’s also the biggest seller, so Ford has a lot riding on the updated 2016 Escape it is launching at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

The mid-cycle “refresh” brings with it some modest visual updates but some major improvements in the compact crossover’s bag of digital tricks, with an assortment of new connectivity and safety features that include the latest version of Ford Sync, as well as forward collision warning and lane-keep assist.

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“Stuffing in a lot of technology the customer doesn’t want isn’t the answer,” said Chris Mazur, the Escape’s global program manager. The challenge, he adds, was to “deploy the technology that has the most resonance with our customers.

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Ford Introducing 2016 Explorer at L.A. Auto Show

Maker teasing “#ExploreMore” campaign on social media.

by on Oct.29, 2014

Ford Explorer sales are up 8.7% for the year. The maker is going to debut the 2016 model at the L.A. Auto Show.

Ford is ready to celebrate another special anniversary with a new vehicle. The maker is marking the 25th anniversary of the Ford Explorer with a new 2016 model it will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month.

As part of the launch, Ford will debut an “#ExploreMore” digital teaser campaign on social media. The Explorer wasn’t the first midsize sport-utility vehicle in the U.S., however, it is the best-selling one. Since its introduction, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has sold nearly 7 million Explorers.

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Sales this year are up as Ford has sold more than 158,000 Explorers through the first nine months of 2014, up 8.7%. (more…)

Crossover or SUV? It Doesn’t Matter Because New Explorer Impresses

by on Nov.02, 2011

Ford has remade its Explorer sport utility vehicle, giving it car bones, but also the tools to leave the roads behind.

So, what is the difference between a crossover and an SUV, anyway? In the past, auto writers tended to classify an SUV as one of the old-style body-on-frame bruisers. Real trucks, based on their makers’ pickup truck, capable of going off-road. They came standard with rear-wheel drive, with optional four-wheel drive, no, not all-wheel drive, we’re talking about a system where the 4WD is engaged either by a lever, or more recently with buttons or a knob.

Ford wants us to classify its redesigned Explorer as an SUV, not a crossover. If it’s a crossover you want, then Ford would like to sell you a Flex. But can this completely remade Explorer still claim to be an SUV? Based on the same Volvo bones that underpin the Lincoln MKT and MKS and the Ford Taurus and, yes, even the Flex crossover, base Explorers are now front-wheel drive riding on a unibody platform.

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Sure, much of this is just autowriter flimflam that matters little to the people who buy these rigs. When you boil it down to its essence, car buying revolves around three things: styling, capabilities and how it makes you feel. Oh, and we suppose the niggling issue of cost, and that whole price of ownership thing, has a little to do with it, as well.

So what about this Explorer’s capabilities? Not surprisingly, it handles better than the clunky old Explorer. The stiff unibody makes a big difference compared the old truck’s traditional frame.

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Ford To Reveal New Escape Concept

Production moving to Louisville, maker confirms.

by on Dec.10, 2010

A new Ford Escape will go into the Louisville plant, next year, after a $600 million rennovation.

Ford Motor Co. plans to show off a concept version of its Escape SUV during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that will reveal significant changes to the popular SUV that will be made late next year.

The transformation will come at the same time production of the Escape will move to Ford’s big assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky, a project that will require a $600 million investment – but which will also generate 1,800 new jobs.

“Our Louisville Assembly Plant transformation further proves our commitment to American manufacturing and our commitment to deliver the high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles people really want,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas.

“Working closely with the UAW and Kentucky officials, we have found a way to competitively deliver an important new vehicle that is good for our customers and supports our plan to deliver a well-balanced product portfolio of cars, trucks and utilities,” said Fields, who confirmed the Escape concept vehicle will unveiled at the NAIAS,

The investment in the Kentucky plant continues a grand transformation of Ford’s North American vehicle assembly network. Ford moved production of the all-new 2011 Explorer to Chicago from Louisville earlier this year.

The re-construction of the Louisville plant will begin this month and calls for the installation of new tooling, body shop equipment and other upgrades necessary to build the next-generation Escape for North America.  The re-programmable tooling planned for the body shop will allow the plant to produce multiple vehicle models at the same time without requiring downtime for tooling changeover -
making the Louisville Assembly Plant Ford’s most flexible high-volume assembly line in the world, officials said.

“Manufacturing flexibility is a key to competitiveness, and we are continually exploring ways to raise the bar in this critical area of the business,” said Jim Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North America Manufacturing. “While we are launching Louisville Assembly Plant with one key product – the next-generation Ford Escape – we are building in the flexibility to produce other vehicles at the plant in the future, depending upon volume requirements, customer preferences and other factors that affect vehicle demand.”

Ford’s investment of $600 million in Louisville Assembly Plant for production of the next-generation Escape also is supported by loans from the U.S. Department of Energy. Louisville Assembly Plant is one of 11 Ford plants in the U.S. participating in the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentives Program initiated by Congress and implemented by the Obama administration.

Ford Throws Party To Unveil New Explorer

Employees gather outside company’s World Headquarters to celebrate critical product launch.

by on Jul.26, 2010

The 2011 Ford Explorer makes its debut in Dearborn.

With thousands of employees, dealers and suppliers watching, Ford took the wraps off its 2011 Explorer at a big party outside the company’s World Headquarters in Dearborn.

Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s global product development director, gave a brief rundown on the new sport utility vehicle’s attributes, saying that they all needed to be salespeople for redesigned SUV. (Click here for full details on the new, 2011 Ford Explorer.)

With local band Fifty Amp Fuse playing covers of well-known songs, the Explorer rolled over a 25-foot-tall “mountain” of dirt on the west lawn of Ford’s iconic Glass House as the Ford faithful waved the white T-shirts they were given.

Nearby, in a tent for dealers, Bill Demmer, president of Jack Demmer Ford in Wayne and Jack Demmer Lincoln-Mercury in Dearborn, said the new Explorer will help rejuvenate a fallen Ford model.

“It kind of faded away quietly,” Demmer said of the current SUV. “It’s exciting with the technology they’re building into the (new) car.”

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“You can tell that Ford Motor Company is driven,” he said. “We’re finally on the right page.”

Demmer said the new Explorer gives another choice to buyers who find the styling of the Flex crossover too polarizing.

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