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Ford's 2014 Explorer Looks to Impress

Ford's 2014 Explorer. Photo credit: Ford Motor.

Ford (NYSE: F  ) has a history of responding when its back is against a wall. Every time critics have thought the Blue Oval was down and out, a fresh design and groundbreaking vehicle was designed, saving the company from its demise. After the war effort it was the Thunderbird that revived Ford factories. In the '70s it was the iconic muscle car that won over the hearts of America -- the Mustang. In the '90s, which would be Ford's best and most profitable decade ever, it was large SUVs that brought home the big bucks. Those were the glory days for the Ford Explorer, but that trend would quickly disappear as gas prices elevated. Most large SUVs wouldn't live into the mid 2000s, but the Ford Explorer is bucking trends and soaring back to popularity. Here's why it's important for consumers and investors alike.

Information from Automotive News DataCenter. 2013 projected from sales through June.

Comeback king
The Explorer topped 400,000 in annual sales for years -- something only Ford's F-Series has accomplished over the past decade. It then took a long tumble before beginning its climb back to relevance over the past three years.

It's on pace to sell roughly 190,000, and if the economy and the seasonally adjusted annual rate continue to improve, it could top 200,000 this year -- something it hasn't done since 2005. Its sales are up 11.2% for June and 25.9% for the entire year, compared with last year's figures. So what is it about the Explorer that's driving its recent success?

SUVs were forced to adapt to remain a viable ride in the 2000s, giving birth to a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. The Ford Explorer is especially flexible with its engine options. If you opt for the standard 3.5-liter V6, it features a decent 20 combined mpg while pushing out an impressive 290 horsepower. That gives it the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds. For those aiming for better fuel efficiency rather than towing capacity, you can opt for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which still pushes out about 240 horsepower and 270 pound feet of torque.

In addition to the flexible engines, here are a few options you can expect to have with the 2014 Explorer.

  • AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control.
  • Tire pressure monitoring system.
  • SOS post-crash alert system.
  • Keypad entry system.
  • Active park assist.
  • Power liftgate and rear view camera.
  • Navigation system and MyFord touch infotainment system.

The Explorer's interior doesn't disappoint with its modern and sleek appearance, especially when considering its starting price tag of just under $30,000, according to

Interior of Ford's 2014 Explorer. Photo credit: Ford Motor.

Materials used are a huge point of emphasis for automakers, because the worst thing is to have consumers that immediately see and feel an interior of poor quality and cheap materials. You won't have that problem with the 2014 Explorer, and its dashboard adds to the luxurious and modern feel.

One of the drawbacks for Ford's vehicles has been its MyFord touch infotainment system, which is still very new technology and will improve over the years ahead. But you'll enjoy this large SUV if you're looking for a decently roomy, modern, and versatile ride. The exterior is less boxy and more fluid than its previous versions, which has helped attract new buyers. It gets better gas mileage than its predecessor and is much more comfortable. However, if you want a more nimble and quick ride, you might look toward Ford's Escape.

Overall, the 2014 Explorer rides nicely and will compete very well. Ford expects the SUV to continue its uptick in sales in the years ahead. Here's why that's hugely important for Ford and its investors.

Investing takeaway
SUV's are again one of the most popular and fastest-growing segments in the U.S., as well as China. Being prepared to ride this growth with a vehicle that has had previous brand success will be very profitable for Ford. Moreover, SUVs will typically bring in a higher transaction price and fatter margins than standard cars -- especially as Ford continues to add premium technology options. This will be huge going forward, as Ford's full-size pickups bring in as much as 60% of its profits and Ford will focus on lessening its dependence on any one segment.

Information from Automotive News DataCenter.

Looking at the U.S. SAAR numbers, we can see the gradual improvement in sales -- expect the Explorer to increase its market share, sales numbers, and profits to Ford as the decade progresses. Before when Ford's back was against the wall, a new vehicle would be designed to revive life back into the company. This time it's a little different, it won't be just one vehicle -- but many. Ford's Explorer looks to join forces with the Fusion, Focus, F-Series, and Escape to help return Ford to the top of the food chain -- a welcome development for Ford investors.

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Read/Post Comments (19) | Recommend This Article (14)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 2:25 PM, 96redse5so wrote:

    Really? You want us to believe that in the 1970s Ford was saved by the "groundbreaking" Mustang?

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 2:27 PM, 96redse5so wrote:

    And while I might agree that the early Thunderbird was indeed groundbreaking, I have a hard time believing that it sold in sufficient numbers in the 1950s to revive the whole company. Oh we'll - you're the expert.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 2:33 PM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:

    Those vehicles really did bring back a lot of attention back to Ford's brand and allowed factories to run at profitable capacities. I even left one out, the 80's Taurus was absolutely huge for Ford. Its second redesign was the best-selling car in '92, before the Camry begin its ridiculous period of dominance.

    Thanks for reading,


  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 2:53 PM, chrismireya wrote:

    FORD should have never redesigned the Explorer from the 1995-2001 model based upon the Ford Ranger chassis. That model was sporty, big (but not humongous) and versatile for families, cargo, outdoors activity and traveling.

    FORD created the Escape because they realized their mistake in redesigning the Explorer into a giant square van. However, the Escape was slightly smaller than the Ranger-based Explorer.

    This is a textbook "IF IT ISN'T BROKEN DON'T FIX IT" lesson. Ford had the top-selling SUV on Earth. They saved money because it was designed on the Ranger chassis. Major changes were mostly "under the hood" or in accessories. Overall structural changes weren't too much of a departure from earlier models.

    Now, we have a Ford Explorer that looks a lot like the Ford Escape that looks a lot like the Ford Edge. There is little distinction. They don't appeal to men who refuse to drive minivans and want SUVs because of the masculine "truck" look.

    FORD is getting back to the reasons why the Explorer was so great. However, the vehicle needs to look "sporty" and more "truck-like" -- because who wants something that looks like it is nothing more than an "Explorer" of a Target or Wal-Mart parking lot?

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 3:05 PM, 96redse5so wrote:

    Here are the post-war production figures for the Thunderbird for the following model years: 1946-0; 1947-0; 1948-0; 1949-0; 1950-0; 1951-0; 1952-0; 1953-0; 1954-0; 1955-16,155

    Ford sold over 12 million cars in the 1950s. A little over 1 percent were Thunderbirds. It was not until 10 years after the war, that Ford sold its first Thunderbird.

    To credit the Thunderbird with Ford's post-war revival kind of ruins any credibility that you may have.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 3:23 PM, btc909 wrote:

    Does it still have 14Ft. thick doors and seats? Ooo it has a backup camera! OOOOO keypad entry. Ford do you realize how bad and dated that keypad entry looks? Ooooo a power lift gate!

    I liked the Explorer, the powered third row was a nice feature. Doors & seats were just plain bulbus. 3rd row was only useful for kids Overly dark interior. But the kicker was that price tag at just about any option level.

    I'd lose the 3rd row, dump the Flex, thin everything out, if that requires high strength steel to meet current crash tests boo hoo Ford. Get the price down, options up. Put a decent 4 cylinder in it. I'd reboot that over-sized Scion, Mini Cooper, hearse thing as your 3rd row SUV.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 3:49 PM, DoLess95 wrote:

    Really like what they did with the windows.Took a page out of Land Rover's book

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 4:13 PM, gaspasser19 wrote:

    The wife and I went shopping for a new SUV recently and drove the Explorer because we like the exterior styling. We were so disappointed! It feels no different than the 1st gen. Explorer I drove 20 years ago. Unimpressive in every way. The Germans, Japanese and now the Koreans all design build a superior product.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 4:35 PM, josh995 wrote:

    Ok... I generally dislike Ford... a LOT.


    I love the new Explorer and am completely impressed with it. I rented one for 2 weeks for a cross country trip. I went from the rental counter with the keys to the vehicle with a negative attitude that I had to drive a Ford for the next 2 weeks. But I can't recall one single complaint I had with it. Ford has come a LONG WAY since I last drove one (2003 I think? Ford Focus).

    Not every vehicle can please everyone. But I was very pleased with the Explorer and very impressed with how much Ford has improved their vehicles.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 4:36 PM, larry8369 wrote:

    I have owned 2 Explorers. One was a 2003 and my current one is a 2009. Both being the SportTrac Limited. The 2009 is a vast improvement over the 2003. That being said, Ford elected to discontinue the SportTrac after the 2010 model. I think that was a mistake. I for one need the bed in back but don't need a full size pickup on a truck frame. My SportTrac rides like a luxury vehicle and is what I need. I will not buy a standard SUV solely because it doesn't meet my requirements. Ford probably made this decision because the SportTrac was cutting into F150 sales but i wish they would reconsider!

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 5:51 PM, broncowner wrote:

    I've had Fords most of my life and except for the Pinto hatchback, I've had not many complaints about their looks , comfort or power. I had a Bronco II and loved it for many years, I put 120k miles on it and gave it to my son. I bought a 1999 Explorer 4 x 4 and to my surprise it has outlasted every 4x4 my friends bought. I've put over 72k miles on it and other than regular oil changes, have had no problems with it. It has no dings or dents and the 4.0 v-6 brings me the gpm that;s very respable and the power factor gets me out of dicey situations very quickly. I plan on having it for a very long time.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 6:16 PM, Cody700 wrote:

    Being a Ford person my entire life gives me status as an expert on the subject of Ford, thank you. The history of Ford and their success is marked by many vehicles over the years. The cars that are most successful for Ford are the Mustang, (1964-1/2), the Taurus (1986), and now we have the Fusion that is a best selling car for Ford. By far the biggest success for Ford is the F series trucks that are more successful than any other car or pickup in the world. Ford has always been successful since I have been around. The 70's were the most painful years for all manufacturers and I don't feel that anyone produced a "great" car in the 70's that I can think of. Since then, however, we have upped the ante and along with GM and Chrysler, are on par with anything that the rest of the world can offer.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 8:12 PM, Dallasdave67 wrote:

    Just two things.

    First...You guys do know that Ford is in last place on Consumer Reports reliability rankings don't you?

    Second...Yes I am quite sure the availability of the Sport Trac was really hurting F150 sales. :/

    Oh and one more thing "we(Ford) have upped the ante and along with GM and Chrysler, are on par with anything that the rest of the world can offer."

    Thanks fanboy Cody!

    Doubt his fanboy status? He referred to Ford as "we".

    BTW, I own a 2011 Mustang and love it!!

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 10:12 PM, masterautotech wrote:

    GM has a better warranty than Ford. GM is also easier to work on. The cost to repair a Ford is much higher. A Ford truck you have to lift the cab off of the frame to do most major engine work. This makes the labor charges much higher.

    Go to a GM dealership look around the service department and look at a Ford service department.

    Then price a GM engine and the labor to install it then price a Ford engine and the labor to install it.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 10:20 PM, ScamuelJones wrote:

    If you buy one of these Fords, you run the very same risk that three year old Ford has done--the paint jobis ALREADY peeling in at least five spots, and Ford does not care! They told me so! So take your chances and see what happens! I've already repairs on the air conditioner cooler and the transmission fluid cooler on the same car!

    BEWARE of buying a Ford!

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 11:05 PM, HaroldDean wrote:

    I owned a 1991 Explorer with the 4.0 V6 engine I drove it for 219 thousand miles before reluctantly selling due to my wife's disabilities. It caused me to buy my 1992 Ranger super cab with the 4.0., Both vehicles had the four speed transmission with overdrive and both vehicles would yield 26 mpg on long freeway trips which was the only time I would keep trackn of fuel consumption. I pulled a 17 foot 1900 pound fiberglass fifth wheel RV trailer from Eastern Virginia to California and back to Illinois with it. The only time it failed to deliver 20mpg was pulling uphill on new blacktop in 110 degree hear in the Salt River canyon in Arizona. I purely would love to have that old Explorer back since the 2000 model I had with the same engine was not nearly the same car. I also was stupid and traded the 92 Ranger in in a 98 Ranger 4 x 4 with the 4.0. Talk about a disappointment in fuel economy. Wish I also had the 92 back again

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 11:47 PM, CarFool1962 wrote:

    @Larry8369 The Sport Trac has been tested by Consumer Reports to have the highest incidence of roll over when making quick evasive turning maneuvers. Also a few years back Ford Explorers and Firestone tires were in the news. Too many glaring quality control issues with Ford for my taste. I'm a GM Man all the way. In all fairness though everyone has their likes and dislikes. my like just happens to be GM and yours Ford. I hope you keep rolling in your Sport Trac rather than Rolling Over.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 11:12 PM, pbensh77 wrote:

    I bought a used '02 Explorer XLT about 8 months ago. Changed the fluids, with the exception of the transmission since it is a closed tranny and was recommended against changing, got new brakes and got new tires. It is my second vehicle, to be used on family camping trips and when I need to run to home depot or buy large furniture.

    My first car is a 2008 BMW 328i sport. I freaking love my BMW. But I find myself driving the Explorer on the weekends for cruising around town. I drove it up to Philadelphia in January on a business trip b/c I didn't want to take the BMW into Philly. Was a comfortable ride. The all wheel drive let me not worry too much about snow on the roads.

    The Explorer gets about the same gas mileage as my BMW around town. I find myself looking at the new Explorer and wishing I had that 4 cylinder ecoboost option. I will probably drive this '02 until it craps out on me and then get a ten year old Explorer. I hope my current Explorer lasts until 2023 so I can get one of these new models that are out now. I like them a lot.

    Oh yeah. I found the used Explorer with 72k miles on it, 6 disc changer, 17" rims, roof rack, sunroof, third row seats, back up sensor and cloth seats for $6500. I dropped about $1000 for the fluids, brakes and new tires. The paint job still looks mint.

    So far, I have not regretted purchasing this '02 Ford. I see a lot of Explorer XLTs on the road. I am sure most of them have much more mileage than mine. I think this thing will last to 150K no problem. And the rate I put miles on it, that will be in 20 years.

  • Report this Comment On August 31, 2013, at 1:31 AM, Fordmanforlife wrote:

    Your comments are way off. The 2014 Explorer is a great vehicle. Having owned a 1997 and a 2006 and a 2014, they have been fantastic. Your column is BS and I will never read it again. Ford Stock is thru the roof and they did take TARP money like GM or Chrysler or what ever their foreign company name is...

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