In a recent article for the Detroit Free Press, Auto Critic Mark Phelan argues that the shift in consumer demand away from cars and toward SUVs and crossovers presents an opportunity for American automakers like Ford to leverage their strengths in the segment, and reverse the damage done to their reputations during the 80s and 90s.
Japanese automakers also compete in that space, of course, but companies like Honda and Toyota “lack brand icons of truck toughness like the [Chevy] Suburban and Ford F-150 pickup,” Phelan writes. The market share of cars is waning, dropping from around half of all new-vehicle sales to just 37% in January, meaning that models like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry could cede ground to the sort of big, rugged vehicles that America does best.
Last year, Ford responded by announcing intentions to introduce four new SUVs to the North American market by 2020, including a new Bronco. A redesigned Ford Expedition is due out this year as a 2018 model, while the Explorer has kept a boxy, brawny appearance similar to that of the Expedition – despite its unibody construction – to exude a sense of ruggedness and versatility.
“Our goal is to make you feel unstoppable,” Ford SUV Group Marketing Manager Michael O’Brien says. “People respond to design attributes that are rugged and strong, like the Explorer.”
According to Ford Sales Analyst Erich Merkle, the SUV market has “almost doubled since 2010.” With that shift, it might just be Ford that proves “unstoppable.”