QOTD: Can a New Ford Expedition End GM's Full-Size SUV Dominance?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
qotd can a new ford expedition end gm s full size suv dominance

On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company unveiled the all-new, fourth-generation 2018 Ford Expedition outside the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

But does the Expedition matter?

With the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe plus GMC’s Yukon and Yukon XL — setting aside the degree to which the Cadillac Escalade crushes the Lincoln Navigator — General Motors owns 75 percent of America’s full-size, body-on-frame, truck-based SUV market.

Seventy-five per cent.

Three-quarters.

Not just a plurality, but a majority. An overwhelming majority.

Yet in 2016, the tenth year of the third-generation Expedition’s tenure, sales rose to a nine-year high of 59,835 units. And Ford accomplished that feat with a very old SUV that lacks even the availability of adaptive cruise control or auto high beams, among other items found on inexpensive Kias. Ford produced that nine-year high with a very old SUV that had to take the fight to far newer GMT K2XX behemoths.

What might a brand new Ford Expedition accomplish? Could GM’s market share in the category fall below 50 percent? Is a 10-point drop to 65 percent a more reasonable goal for Dearborn? Or does Ford continue to fail at converting F-Series pickup dominance into class-leading full-size SUV demand?

The official line from Ford: “Ultimately, customers will decide how many we’ll sell,” sales analyst Erich Merkle told me after the new Expedition’s debut.

Customers will want more.

Sales in the category rose 22% to 340,530 units in 2016, with slightly less than 18 percent coming from the Expedition (including the EL, known from here on out as the Max) and another 8 percent from the Toyota Sequoia and surging Nissan Armada.

By historical standards, that’s a low number. 15 years ago, the category produced 767,000 sales, more than double last year’s output. GM owned 66 percent of the segment in 2002.

The 767,000-unit result is not going to happen again, even with an expected boost from the Expedition, which generated more than 163,000 sales in 2002 when the Expedition was America’s sixth-best-selling SUV overall. There are far too many alternatives now, including big unibodies and ever-more family-friendly crew cab pickups.

But if fuel prices remain tolerable, we can expect even more growth from General Motors’ biggest SUVs and an Expedition surge. Will the 2018 Expedition be the full-size Ford SUV that finally knocks GM off its perch, a perch that resulted in better than 70 percent market share in each of the last six years?

Or is Ford forever doomed to collect meaningful profits — and trivial market share — in an arena controlled by its chief rival?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Feb 12, 2017

    Buyers didn't notice when Ford made major changes in the chassis for 2003, neither did they care with the introduction of the GTDI engines in the last few years. GM covers this market well and loyalty is strong, buyers will stick with what they know. The same phenomenon keeps Ford's pickups at the top.

  • Orange260z Orange260z on Feb 12, 2017

    The Ford TT3.5L feels a lot more powerful than the GM 5.3L, particularly when towing. On paper, the 3.5L is more fuel efficient; but in reality I think the TT3.5L drinks more. The GM full-size SUVs with the 5.3L really give incredible real-world fuel economy when not towing, better than many larger CUVs and and as good as minivans. Additionally, the GM 5.3L is typically quite reliable while the TT3.5L seems to have a pretty spotty reliability record.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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