Tales Of Redesign Timing: Two Traditional Detroit Products Get Refreshed

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Ford’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.

But 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.

The 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 GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • Petezeiss Petezeiss on Nov 24, 2014

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

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Nov 24, 2014

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

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Nov 24, 2014

      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.

  • Arthur Dailey 'The capitalists will sell use the very rope that we use to hang them.' In our household we have cut down our shopping/spending and pay more to purchase products from 1st world nations or 2nd world nations that are our 'allies'. That also means quite often only buying and eating fruit and vegetables that are in season. Just like our parents and grandparents did.At least TTAC published an article on May 21st regarding LAN transformers that contravene the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act being used in some BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and VW products?
  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!
  • Roman Our 1999 Pontiac Sunfire Gt is still running without any issues. 25 years and counting.
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