A difficult new model launch caused Ford Motor Co.’s Explorer sales to crater in the third quarter, plummeting 48%.
U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said dealers were short of Explorer inventory this summer and demanding more of the high-profit SUV. But the situation is improving as Ford’s factory in Chicago starts getting up to speed.
“We’ve got adequate inventory in our stores,” LaNeve said in a phone interview. “For Q4, availability won’t be an issue. We’ll be able to hit our stride with Explorer starting now.”
Despite a bumpy start for the Explorer, Ford says it is selling a rich mix of highly profitable ST performance versions of the SUV, accounting for one-third of the initial sales of the redesigned model.
As Ford largely exits cars, the company is souping up its SUVs to give drivers a more sporty ride in their big rigs. So far, that strategy is paying off: sales of the ST versions of the Edge and Explorer SUVs rose 26% in the third quarter, according to LaNeve.
“Customers want the functionality of an SUV, but they want to maintain the ride and handling and some of the performance characteristics they had in their sedans,” LaNeve said in an interview. “In the new Explorer ST, you feel low and tight to the road and it corners exceptionally well.”