Friday, August 04, 2000

Ford adds power to Explorer for '02

The Associated Press

        DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. might have promised to increase the fuel economy of its sport utility vehicles, but a new version of the Ford Explorer was built using the formula the world's No. 2 maker of cars and trucks has found lucrative so far — bigger and stronger.

        The 2002 version of the Explorer, the industry's top-selling SUV, offers a more powerful engine and more interior space over the current model.

        “The people who buy an SUV aren't buying a vehicle that will just go from point A to point B,” said Ed Golden, design director for the Explorer. “They're buying a lifestyle.”

        Last week, Ford said it would increase the fuel economy of its SUV fleet 25 percent by 2005. The Explorer and its twin, the Mercury Mountaineer, have been under development for three years, and it will take a similar amount of time for Ford to engineer significant mileage increases.

        The Explorer is one of the roots of Ford's sales and profits, and was one of the vehicles that ignited American tastes for SUVs. Ford sold 428,772 Explorers last year, 128,000 more than the nearest competitor, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Since going on sale in 1990, Ford has sold 3.6 million Explorers.

        The new versions are a few inches wider than the old models, and gain about 200 pounds in weight. But they also get a third row of seats — a feature aimed at distinguishing them from competitors and from the Ford Escape, a smaller SUV that's going on sale now.

        The all-new frame uses an independent rear suspension, which will improve the Explorer's ranking in proposed federal rollover standards. Ford also will offer a few new safety features, including side-curtain air bags.

        Prices for the new models were not disclosed.


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- Ford adds power to Explorer for '02