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

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

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.

Timothy Cain
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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.

  • Lynchenstein @EBFlex - All ICEs are zero-emission until you start them up. Except my mom's old 95 Accord, that used to emit oil onto the ground quite a lot.
  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂
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