By on April 16, 2015

Ford SUV sales chart March 2015In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005.

Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor Utilities (up 45%) and 20,765 civilian Explorers (up 17%).

In a month which saw particularly strong results from the Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox, the Explorer ranked sixth among America’s best-selling SUVs and crossovers. (With consistently strong performances from the CR-V, Escape, and RAV4, it’s not reasonable to think the Explorer could routinely stand on the podium.)

But those are all smaller CUVs. Among vehicles which come standard with a third row of seating, the Explorer outsold the next-best-selling three-row crossover, Toyota’s Highlander, by more than 10,019 units and the best-selling minivan, Toyota’s Sienna, by 10,203 sales.

2015 Ford ExplorerCombined, GM sold 24,197 copies of their Lambda-platform (Traverse, Acadia, Enclave) crossovers, a 2% year-over-year gain. But in the interest of full disclosure, Ford also sold 1848 copies of the Flex, which takes the Ford brand’s three-row CUV total up to a Lambda-besting 24,906 units.

That’s besides the point, however. The real story is the return to high-volume status for the Explorer. Last America’s top-selling SUV nine years ago, the Explorer has improved upon its 2006 total in each of the last two years. If the current rate of improvement holds through the next three-quarters, Ford will sell more than 260,000 Explorers in the U.S. this year, the highest total since 2004. March 2015 sales marked the first time since May of last year, which had marked the best month of Explorer sales since July 2005, that Ford had sold more than 20,000 Explorers in a single month. But Explorer sales have increased in 13 consecutive months.

Last month’s 23,058-unit tally was down 7% compared to the previous best March of 2005, but there’s a key difference between the two performances. In March 2005, sales tumbled 17%, a loss of 5000 units compared with March 2004. 2005 was to be the third consecutive year of decline in what would become a seven-year streak. March 2015, on the other hand, marked a 19%, 3700-unit improvement. 2015 is set to be the sixth consecutive year of improved Explorer sales.

Granted, the Explorer isn’t back to historic levels yet, nor is it likely to get back there. Ford averaged 405,000 annual Explorer sales in the U.S. during the decade between 1995 and 2004. The utility vehicle sector has broadened significantly since then, and the competition between nameplates, not to mention the changing tastes of consumers, hasn’t allowed a single SUV/CUV nameplate to come within 60,000 units of the 400K mark since Ford sold 373,000 Explorers twelve years ago.

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

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71 Comments on “Best-In-A-Decade March 2015 Ford Explorer Sales Cause Us To Remember Times Gone By...”


  • avatar

    Historic numbers of the Explorer namesake may not return, but I think that’s more because today’s explorer is huge, and the real explosion is in small CUV. I think the Edge is closer to the historic Explorer (sans 3rd row option), and most folks opt for the Escape sized vehicles when looking at Edge vs Escape. While Escape has made quite a name for itself, I wonder if a tougher looking Escape called Explorer would have been the hindsight best option. For example, I think the Escape is better than the Jeep Cherokee in just about every measurable standard from a driving perspective (I had a Cherokee rental this weekend for 400 miles). However, the Jeep is 1. A Jeep, and 2. a Cherokee and 3. has more aggressive looks. I wouldn’t want either for myself, but those are three cool sounding things that would at least have me considering a Fiat product I might not otherwise even look at.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Yeah, the high volume Explorer from the days of yore was first and foremost CHEAPER. Even adjusted for inflation, a 4×4 XLT (well equipped) would be closer to $30k today. A new one with leather/4×4/etc is $40k today.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The current Explorer is the best option. It’s nameplate plus looks (I like the Flex better) sells around 200K units a year with an average transaction price that is now about $35K. The crossover version will break 1 million units since 2011 next year. That’s a successful, profitable product that also saved the D-platform from being a giant waste of money.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        The U502 was so close to the D platform, it wouldn’t have been a waste of resources even if it didn’t sell. The U502, D47X and D3whatever/D25whatever are all so similar that the product launches followed close in succession.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          True. I should rephrase it to, without the Explorer, the D-platform would be filled with also ran sedans and crossoves that did well in auto magazine reviews without significant sales.

          Ford’s unfocused CUV/SUV strategey in the late 2000s didn’t help. In 2009 Ford had the Taurus X, Flex, Explorer, Edge, Escape, and Expedition. SO MUCH OVERLAP!

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Perhaps they could do the same thing with the Flex as the Expedition MAX – it could be the Explorer FLAX.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many of these were of the Explorer Pursuit or whatever the police car version is. I see quite a few of them, and I’ve heard they were outselling the Taurus pursuit by a wide margin. They are basically the new Crown Vic.

    • 0 avatar
      udman

      if you read the text, the Explorer sold 2,293 Police Explorers last month. That is about 10% of the total explorer sales, so if you translate that figure over the the past year, you could get a fairly accurate number or Pursuit Explorers annual sales figures from 2014, and 2013.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      I’ve come to really hate them for purely selfish reasons. So many federal, state and local agencies around me are using them–almost always in white and often unmarked–that they reached modern Diplomat/Caprice status of distraction on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Most of the Exploder’s I see are police spec but I’d have to say that the Tahoe has become the ubiquitous police unit.

  • avatar
    sproc

    I’m curious how aggressive Ford has been relative to others in pursuing subprime customers. Over beers my brother let slip that my sister-in-law just drove a new Edge off the lot with an 18% note and it made me sick to my stomach.

  • avatar
    jkk6

    Not sure if anyone has noticed but I’m seeing more and more Explorers on the Streets of Harlem and BK , NYC Suburb Area. Hip hop is bringing it back.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    So two large CUVs are built on the same platform, with almost identical equipment and similar interior capacity, differing mostly in styling. The pig-ugly one sells like hotcakes. The attractive one sells as though it were an obsolete sports car. I don’t understand people sometimes.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      As the saying goes beauty is the eye of the beer holder, and in this case the beer holder’s wife won’t go near the Flex so the Explorer it is. Name recognition and the number of people who have/had an Explorer can’t hurt either. As noted it was the best selling utility vehicle for a very long time and in a number of years it was the best selling “car” outselling the Camry and Accord.

      The Flex would be my choice though and the wife likes it too but for us a 3 row vehicle isn’t needed anymore with the last kid graduating from HS this year. So a few years ago we decided to get a car for the daily driving and keep our old SUV around and drive it into the ground.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My wife hates both, so there you go. But her hate for the Flex is more virulent. I’ve never seen a car that inspired such radically different reactions across genders.

        Personally, I think there is something horribly off about the Explorer’s proportions. It’s too bulbous and slab-sided. The Flex’s larger greenhouse and squarer lines seem so much more natural to me, and do a better job of masking these vehicles’ very large size.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I agree.

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            Coming from a fellow Mountaineer owner (the last of the Explorers as I know them to be), I agree also. The wife loves her Mountaineer Prem, but doesn’t like the new Explorer. Given the problems we’ve had with it I’m actually happy about this regardless of the styling. Im not real sure what we will get into in the near future but it most likely will not be a Ford.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    Is it weird that my wife and I actually like the Flex/MKT? It’s basically just a Ford Taurus/Lincoln MKS station wagon with a 5″ wheelbase stretch (to 118″).

    I know that the Explorer is just a Taurus station wagon as well, but it rides on the same 113″ wheelbase as the Taurus. I think the extra 5″ in the Flex/MKT yields a nicer rear seat. Plus they also look more like station wagons than the SUVish looking Explorer.

    I know it’s weird that “must look like a station wagon” is a point for me, because I actually hate station wagons. But, my wife loves wagons, so there is that.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      We own an MkT, and the longer wheelbase is nice. Also, used Explorer Sports, and Flex Limiteds, with the 3.5TT fetch a premium price used. Might as well juts buy an MkT for less.

      • 0 avatar
        DevilsRotary86

        I agree, but the only problem with the MKT is that I would like to get it with a tow package. Now it is available on the MKT just like on the Flex. But on the used market it seems that most Flexes have the tow package, but most MKT’s don’t. We also would prefer 2nd row buckets instead of the 2nd row bench. It’s a hard combination to find on the used market. Possible to find for the Flex, but near impossible to find for the MKT. Otherwise yes, I prefer the MKT over the Flex.

        I just did a google search on adding the tow package to an existing not-so-equipped MKT. It’s not too hard, but it’s non-trivial. And it’s apparently difficult to add Trailer Sway Control to the car.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Yeah most MkTs do not have the tow package. Luckily, mine did. I was not able to get the second row buckets or my preferred color (white platinum metallic) though. I found a black on black one for the right price that had the tow package. The dealer was also good about getting TSBs that I wanted done fixed before I drove it off the lot.

          It was a good enough experience that I’ve referred them business and plan on purchasing my next vehicle there.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I occasionally look at local Flex inventory, in the faint hope that maybe my wife will eventually be converted.

            I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Flex with all three of the following: 1) captain’s chairs (which are essential to us because the easy-fold feature would make it possible for my wife to use the third row with an ongoing back injury), 2) the tow package, and 3) the EcoBoost engine. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I ever want a Flex I’m going to have to order it.

            I just can’t deal with the back end of the MKT, so that’s not an option.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My wife’s parents have that Flex right now. Gray, black roof, appearence package, captains chairs, 3.5TT, tow package.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @dal I see a lot of Flex Limiteds with the second row captains, the ecoboost and the tow package or at least a hitch that someone has added, hard to tell w/o looking closer. They are all asking top dollar for them too. The Flex around here seems to hold its value pretty well if they are nicely equipped and don’t have tons of miles on them. It is rare to find one even fwd for under $20K and those that are have a rebuilt title or 150K miles or more on them.

          • 0 avatar
            DevilsRotary86

            @Scoutdude,

            I agree, I see the same here. The price differential between the MKT and Flex would tempt me to get the MKT and add the tow package to it myself.

            Of course this is all just a thought experiment now. We are probably not going to get my wife a new car for 3 years. And I said she likes the MKT/Flex. The real problem there is that she loves the Outback.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    In my opinion, the Explorer is much overpriced. I also feel that it lacks a lot of interior space due to packaging constrictions.

    As well, I bet the redesign is going to hurt sales. The new one is -not- as good looking as this one.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The redesign will be fine. The Interceptor version is better and I am getting used to the new face. It just needs to bridge the gap for a couple years until the next-gen Explorer comes out.

      Ford also figured out that people have no propbelm paying $45K+ for an Explorer. So they made the Platinum version that starts $52K. That’s within spitting distance of an Expedition Limited 4×4. Gimme the Expedition. Either way, I bet transaction prices go up.

      On a related note, I have been working in an area where a lot of Ford employees live and where there are a bunch of supplier US HQs or engineering centers (Brembo, ZF, Aisin, Federal Mogul, Johnson Controls, Rousch, etc). There are new Expeditions EVERYWHERE. I swear they out number Malibus and Altimas around here. I have decided that this generation of Expedition will age well. It’s not too bubbly or angry. Just right, but kinda boring.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I agree whole heartedly. Id never buy one of these Explorers, honestly Id rather have the Flex if I wanted car-based, or Expedition if I wanted truck-based. And, just to be clear, the cards are stacked in favor of the latter.

        But, if theyre selling well, more power to ’em. The profit made by car-based Explorers could be turned into R&D money to develop a vehicle Id actually buy.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The redesign brings it back to it’s Freestyle roots. And that ain’t a good thing.

  • avatar
    john66ny

    Last summer I rented a UHaul, and there was a big sign in the office saying they would not rent trailers for use with Explorers. Any year, didn’t matter. I asked the franchise owner about it and he said it’s corporate policy going back the the Firestone tire debacle, it was just easier for them because every time there was an “incident” with an Explorer it wound up in court. I wonder if all these new owners are aware of this?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I doubt any would care, honestly. Uhaul is pretty stupid about that policy, they claim that anytime an Explorer was involved in an incident, their insurance would sky-rocket. Id love to show up to a Uhaul store with a Flex and an Explorer with the guy who made that policy and have him explain to me exactly why I can rent with one and not the other. The policy, if it helped at all, shouldve been revised to allow newer versions to be approved. Saying it all has to do with the name on the tailgate is idiotic. Theyre just screwing themselves by stubbornly refusing to rent based soley on the name of the vehicle, a vehicle that happens to outsell all others of its size.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I recall running into that policy once with an ’04 V8 Explorer, well post Firestone era. It’s funny that they still hold firm to that several generations of Exploder later.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        U-haul will let you use a Mountaineer or Aviator though.

        (I assume most are dead by now)

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Ha, I’ll probably never try and rent a U haul again, let alone with an Explorer, but I’ll remember to bring some Mountaineer badges with me.

          “This here’s a 2014 Mercury Mountaineer. They still build these for the Canadian market.”

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      UHaul’s ban only applies to 2010 and earlier Explorers.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I wish things were different. Im happy Ford has a successful model on its hands, but I wish the market wouldve better accepted the Flex (so it would pull in these numbers), that way the Explorer couldve remained truck-based, even playing in the niche off-roader catagory that the 4Runner pretty much has to itself (speaking of vehicles larger than Wrangler Unlimited, though I suppose you could count the Grand Cherokee as a member).

    I know sales of midsize truck-based SUVs are probably never coming back to the level they were in the 1990s-2000s, and if people prefer car-based vehicles for families, fine. But, Id really have loved to have seen the Ford Everest as our new Explorer, with the Flex picking up the soccer mom sales.

    When the Five Hundred debuted in 04 (as an 05), nobody couldve predicted that the Ford Explorer would wind up not only on that platform, but ending up being far-and-above the most successful version of it!

    To those complaining about the Explorer’s styling, have you checked out the refreshed version? The front is less busy, less feminine, much more SUV-like IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “The front is less busy, less feminine, much more SUV-like IMO.”

      But still a decontented Volvo S80 underneath and not an SUV. Americans just seem to love fake things.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The could have very well went with a unibody Explorer as an update, but this version sits too low and is wrong wheel drive.

      Hell the first units that they produced had so many warranty claims of the lower air dam being ripped off they eventually released an update with 2 large rivits holding it on. I believe they gained 0.5 MPG putting the air dam that low.

      “To those complaining about the Explorer’s styling, have you checked out the refreshed version? The front is less busy, less feminine, much more SUV-like IMO.”

      I’ve seen them parked side by side. The newest version is extremely busy up front, with foglights that are just as large as the headlights.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The photos aren’t showing the standout detail of the Explorers I see in civilian use here. They have hood lettering that mimics that of the Range Rovers from which they cribbed their styling. It really completes the costume and drives the sales of these second rate CUVs to the same sort of people that think a Fusion represents the marriage of an Aston Martin and an Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      So, mainstream vehicles should not aspire to be better than they are? Midsize sedans cant be good looking because theyre not $150k+? All common cars MUST be boring and ugly. I mean, how is a smug SOB such as yourself going to look down on the lesser folk when their $30k car gets more approval/thumbs up/recognition/complements than your (leased, I just bet) $50k car?

      You know, and this might be hard to believe, not everyone can afford a Range Rover, Aston Martin or Audi, nor can they afford to maintain and/or repair one. Some can afford them but have the good sense to buy something more common rather than pay for badge-snob appeal that they dont need to feel good about themselves.

      I know, right? Why dont these people just get real and instead of trading their Camry in on a Fusion because its a good looking/driving car, cut the BS and get a Rapide instead?! The nerve of some people! Everyone is rich, they need to start acting like it! Excuse me while I light my Cuban with this $100 bill Im not otherwise using.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Most Explorers don’t have the hood lettering. I believe it’s only the Sport models that do. My wife’s 2014 Limited definitely doesn’t
      .

      As far as that “second rate” comment goes, given the choice of an Explorer or a Range Rover in which to cross the Mojave on a nice hot summer day. I know which I’d pick. Just because something costs a lot doesn’t mean it will give good service.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’ll just leave these here:

      http://www.americangranada.com/gallery/ad-2.jpg

      http://www.adclassix.com/images/75fordgranada.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Y-ESS!

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The funny thing is that the 1975 Seville was also an economy car posing as a Mercedes-Benz competitor, only Cadillac thought to charge premium money for their compact-in-drag.

        The first ad made me remember that at the time I didn’t think anyone was fooled by Ford’s attempts to compare their cars to a Mercedes-Benz, or Dodge’s later attempt with the 600ES. I felt that people were more sophisticated then, and less completely insipid. Then I saw the ad with the Cadillac and was forced to accept that there are still people today that claim the Seville was more than an overweight Nova, so thoroughly duped were some elements of the public by the pimped out econobox.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Not necessarily surprised by this, they are very handsome trucks (more than a little range rover influence in styling) with decent interiors, probably selling for competitive prices. I’ve had a few Limited models as rentals, and they drive decent enough, but are just entirely bland and average in just about every metric (aside from exterior styling). Fuel economy has hovered in the 20-21 range on the highway going 72mph, not really an improvement from the last of the BOF Explorers with the V6, and not any better than what I saw in a 2014 4Runner SR5 over the exact same route. Suspension does a good job of smothering bumps and potholes despite the 20 inch rims. Interior and dash layout feel odd to me. It feels as though there’s a lot of wasted interior space. It’s there, but you can’t use it for people or cargo. The A pillars have these obnoxiously fat corners covered in plastic, like giant roots of a tree or something. A weird thing to be offended by, but they really do stick out like sore thumbs IMO. Cargo and passenger space is again, decent, but not necessarily an improvement over the BOF design. In fact that same 4Runner has more cargo space behind the second row, as well as with all seats down. So taken in sum, the crossover Explorer rides and handles better than its predecessors and probably has better third row space, and looks cool. It isn’t more efficient in the real world, and doesn’t have more space, and is less adept at towing and getting off the beaten path.

    I think I’d save some money and buy the nicest, cleanest 2011 Eddie Bauer 4.6 V8 Explorer I could find, put the savings towards gas and a repair fund.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The most Range Rovery Explorer was of course the final model Mountaineer Premium (maybe with VOGA package if they did that), in black.

      Gold emblems optional, but I say yes.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      I found the perfect Explorer, nice interior, lower center of gravity and more interior room. Its called a FLEX!

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        TTAC can demand a brown Flex with a diesel and manual, but the American market has spoken, and it wants CUVs that look like an SUV, not a long wagon.

        See also: Mercedes R-Class.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Had to add a little.

          “the American market has spoken, it wants [raised wagons not called wagons instead called] CUVs that look like an SUV [but lack all truck capability], not a long wagon [because said market is too stupid to realize what it really wants].”

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            Or, it could be that the buyers of these vehicles like sitting up higher so that they can see well in today’s taller traffic, and they want a higher roofline because their children are a couple of inches taller than was the last generation, and to have more luggage space for the size of the vehicle. My wife’s Explorer is just a couple of inches less than two feet shorter than was my mother’s Country Squire, and you can put decent sized people in all three rows of the Explorer and still carry bags for all of them, something the Country Squire could never do.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I found the perfect Explorer, nice interior, lower center of gravity and more interior room. Its called a FLEX!

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Kudos to Ford for finally figuring out how to sell Explorers again. There had been so much confusion for so long. Shopping at the Ford dealer meant deciding between so many models with so little differentiating them.

    There is no doubt here in Heartland USA that the small SUV is what folks like to drive if they only have a kid or two, or even if they don’t. Many are still fun and youthful and not all of them are as ugly as the Honda, or as boring as the Toyota.

    For those of us with large families, the Explorer is a nice option for those who don’t want to drive a Flex or its weird looking Lincoln counterpart, MKT. The 2016 looks like a winner as well.

    The Lambda GM vehicles ended up doing a great job for GM too. I hope their replacements are as successful.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I could easily see in a few years buying either (used) a Flex, MKT, or Explorer based on how steeply they have depreciated. Of course ecobost V6 and AWD would be a must.

    If I had to guess the Explorer will be the cheapest based on ubiquitous-ness.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Interesting side note on the low-volume Flex. Does anyone here have a solid idea if the car is profitable for Ford?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20150301/RETAIL01/303029955/ford-flex-scores-well-but-not-on-sales-charts

      Ford claims it is profitable. I would assume with the # of models based off that platform it ought to be.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It doesn’t surprise me that CA is the best market for the Flex. Whenever I travel down there I see them everywhere. No they are not rentals either since I don’t think that the rental companies put the stick figure family and other stickers on them. As the only full size station wagon left on the market I sure hope they keep it around a little longer but at the sales volume I just don’t see it lasting much longer. However since it is such a conquest vehicle in the largest market in the US and with such a high profit margin it doesn’t seem like a bad idea. However since the Taurus is almost certainly going away and the Explorer is going a different way it will probably stop to be profitable at such low volumes. I’m also afraid that if they go too far away from the current styling it will chase of current customers and end up without a net increase.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Yes. Because it shares a bunch of stuff with other vehicles and sells at a very high average transaction price with relatively low rebates. The Flex also has done well conquesting other brand owners. People that drives Flexes are also FoMoCo evangelical missionaries. They spread the good word of the Blue Oval. Just ask them about their Flex at the gas station…

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Explorer just does nothing for me, but the Flex is cool. I wish the Flex had a 4 cyl EB option….


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