By on November 24, 2014

Explorer 300 sales chartFord’s facelifted 2016 Explorer debuted at the auto show in Los Angeles this week. Admittedly, it’s more than a facelift for the Explorer, as a better EcoBoost four-cylinder will serve as the vehicle’s smallest powerplant. Ford will also begin selling a higher-grade Platinum trim level and, in all models, an improved interior will take centre stage.

At the same auto show, the 2015 Chrysler 300 also appears quite similar to the outgoing model, although the changes underneath are perhaps more thorough. The exterior, while not wildly different, is certainly altered to the point that you’ll know the difference.

These two redesigns of two prototypical Detroit products with wildly different backgrounds occur at very different life stages for these product lines as the two vehicle lines head in opposite directions.

The Explorer, which has not been a true truck-based SUV for years, carries on with one of the most successful and iconic SUV nameplates in history. The 300 initially grew out of Mercedes-Benz “partnerships”, but as a vast, rear-wheel-drive car, it probably represents America’s big sedan history more accurately than any other vehicle currently on the market.

2016 Ford ExplorerBut while the Explorer is America’s fifth-best-selling SUV/crossover nameplate and sales have risen 9% this year, the fifth consecutive year of improved Explorer volume, 300 sales are tumbling. Sales of the big Chrysler fell 18% last year, a loss of 23,023 units. 300 volume is down 9% through the first ten months of 2014. It’s currently America’s 42nd-best-selling car. It ranked 14th in 2006.

Like the 300, the Explorer doesn’t sell like it once did. As recently as 2002, Ford reported more than 400,000 Explorer sales in America. The nameplate then decreased in volume in seven consecutive years.

Nevertheless, these two vehicles are on different tracks travelling to different destinations. America’s passenger car market is hardly growing despite steady increases in the size of the overall new vehicle industry, and the 300 is just one of many big cars with falling sales. Azera, Taurus, Impala, Avalon, LaCrosse, and the 300’s Charger twin are all down this year, as well.

2015 chrysler 300The Explorer, on the other hand, is part of a utility vehicle sector that’s rising 12% this year, earning more than 470,000 extra sales for the industry over the last ten months.

A new 300 isn’t going to return Chrysler to the days of 140K annual sales rates, nor will a facelifted Explorer cause Ford to sell more than 400,000 per year.

One redesign stands a chance at stemming the tide; the other should help maintain its heady position.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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30 Comments on “Tales Of Redesign Timing: Two Traditional Detroit Products Get Refreshed...”

  • avatar

    I really love this segment. More industry analyses please!

  • avatar

    In days gone by, everybody drove saloon cars. If you wanted to be different, you drove a coupe or a sports car. If you lived on a farm or wanted to look macho, you drove a big offroad wagon.

    Nowadays, everybody drives a big offroad wagon.If you want to be different, you drive a saloon. Coupes and sports cars are for those who want to look macho.

  • avatar

    I’m sorry, but the front of that Explorer just reminds me that I need to clean out my gutters

  • avatar

    Very good story. New Explorer front in this photo sure does seem to imitate Jeep Grand Cherokee looks, except for grille infill of course.

    300 front seems to be going in a Jaguarish, ‘Euro-look’ direction.

  • avatar

    It goes to show how fragmented these segments have become over the last decade due to increased competition.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Mr. Cain, can you add the D4 Explorer’s predecessors, the Freestyle/Taurus X to the graph? It would be interesting to see how the platform’s sales are doing.

    • 0 avatar

      If you put the Freestyle/Taurus X in the 2005-2009 spots in place of the BoF Explorer, you would see how much of a difference the 2011 Explorer made.

      Freestyle/Taurus X
      2004: 8,509
      2005: 76,739
      2006: 58,602
      2007: 42,110
      2008: 23,112
      2009: 6,106

      2010: 60,687
      2011: 135,179
      2012: 164,207
      2013: 192,397

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        Thanks. The turnaround of Explorer sales as a CUV is impressive.

        Are there other recent Lazarus nameplates out there?

        • 0 avatar

          The Flex would be more relevant. The Flex does everything the Exlorer does (for 90% of buyers) but does it better with a more usable third row.

          Still want me an Ecobost AWD Flex with a plate that says “BOSSWGN”.

          • 0 avatar

            The Flex is highly underrated for it’s capabilities, it’s just so, shoebox

            I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll be admiring it’s classic clean lines and timeless style, that’s just the way these things work

          • 0 avatar

            The Flex has never sold more than 40K units a year. On the year it’s sales overlapped with the Taurus X (2009), the following year’s Explorer sales numbers were still greater. The 2011 Explorer also wasn’t on sale for the entire 2010 calendar year either.

            My Flex love has been on display here, and I even purchased the weirdest of the D-platform vehicles, the MkFlex. No matter how much I love the Flex and proclaim it to be superior to the Explorer, the Flex will cross 20K units this year while the Explorer crosses 200K units.

          • 0 avatar

            Honestly, I wasn’t 100% sure they still made the Flex.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s definitely a nice design…which goes against Ford’s current “Kinetic Design” aesthetic, all triangles and folds and catfish grilles.

            Flexes may be few and far between, but those that do own them love them.

      • 0 avatar

        “If you put the Freestyle/Taurus X in the 2005-2009 spots in place of the BoF Explorer, you would see how much of a difference the 2011 Explorer made.”

        Goes to show you how much difference the CUV/SUV marketing clout makes versus that of wagons.

  • avatar

    With the decline in sales/market share of large sedans like the 300 and Taurus, would it have been better to compare those two? Or the Explorer to the Grand Cherokee?

    I’m not trying to be critical, but it seems we’re comparing apples and oranges, here.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja


    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the comparison between the two is apples and oranges, but I think the point here was they were two bestsellers in their day that fell hard, and now they’ve taken two different paths in the hopes of regaining their former glory. The Explorer ditched its unnecessary truck roots and succeeded, the 300 stayed the course as a full-size RWD sedan and is still struggling.

  • avatar

    Isn’t there a requirement for light truck classification that the approach angle is some minimum amount? How could this possibly have the minimum required approach angle with that low air dam and the huge front overhang?

    • 0 avatar

      Since the Explorer is no longer a truck-based, BOF SUV, but rather a car-based unibody CUV, I would assume there’s no minimum for approach and departure angles.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The Explorer leaves me cold. I liked the Taurus X. I like the Flex. The Explorer design does nothing for me.

    I really like the 300, but it needs its brash chrome grille back.

  • avatar

    “Like the 300, the Explorer doesn’t sell like it once did. As recently as 2002, Ford reported more than 400,000 Explorer sales in America. The nameplate then decreased in volume in seven consecutive years.”

    Do those numbers include the two-door Explorer Sport? 2003 was the last year for that, and it was sold at a significantly lower price than the 4 door.

    It would be interesting to see historical numbers for just the 4-door models.

  • avatar
    George B

    Two different approaches to making a big comfortable American car. Seems that a tall station wagon with a truck name and styling is the winning formula.

    I wonder if Ford Explorer sales are limited more by competition from other CUVs dividing the market into smaller pieces than by decreased demand for the Explorer. For example, the Hyundai Santa Fe has grown and changed from a small, strange looking vehicle to an attractive credible competitor to the Explorer.

  • avatar

    Sedans are poo. Of course something tall and biped-friendly is winning.

  • avatar

    I see Explorer CUVs here in San Diego every day, but they’re all police cars. Do they sell to civilians elsewhere?

    • 0 avatar

      They’ve sold quite few of them to civilians in my region. Two people I know retired their OLD Explorers, sold them to illegal alien Mexicans, and bought new Explorers, this time full-pop, with all the bells and whistles. Both of them were White, the most popular “color” in the hot and sunny desert Southwest.

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