Ford Throttles Up Production of Big-buck Expeditions, Navigators, in Bid for Boffo Profits

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
ford throttles up production of big buck expeditions navigators in bid for boffo

For an automaker worried about shrinking profit margins, spending an extra $25 million is just fine if it means cranking out 25 percent more high-margin SUVs. And the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, now minty fresh after years spent withering on the vine, certainly fit the description of “guaranteed cash generator.”

Ford plans to add that sum to the $900 million already sunk into the Kentucky Truck Plant in an effort to boost production of its full-size SUV models, knowing full well Americans buyers will snap them up the minute they roll off the line. Is there a clearer example of an automaker treating SUVs as a license to print money?

Speaking to media at the Louisville plant, Ford’s president of global operations, Joe Hinrichs, boasted, “We can sell every single vehicle we can produce here.”

This isn’t just a case of wishful thinking, it seems. After waxing poetic about the two models’ juicy margins, Hinrichs said, “The dealer feedback has been even stronger than we’ve hoped for.”

According to Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle, the two models, which aged well past their best-before date before 2018’s aluminum-intensive redesign, have proven popular enough to warrant the extra attention. “Because they’re turning so fast, we’re going to do everything we can to meet the demand that’s out there,” he said.

Expeditions average just 11 days on a dealer lot, Merkle said. Bolstering the model’s importance (and profitability) is the fact that, compared to the previous generation, twice as many buyers now spring for the high-zoot Platinum model. That trim, comprising 29 percent of Expedition sales in January, retails for $76,595. As well, some 84 percent of Navigators leave the lot in Reserve or Black Label trims.

Suffice it to say, average transaction prices ($57,700 for the Expedition, $77,400 for the Navigator) are nowhere near the models’ sharply increased entry price.

Ford is apparently so eager to feed retail buyers, an Automotive News source claims, that the company has barred employees from ordering an Expedition or Navigator through its manager lease program.

Why the desperate measures? Investors, and a steep drop in the company’s automotive profit margins. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Ford’s 3.7 percent margin was a full two points lower than a year earlier. Rising commodity prices, especially that of aluminum — of which the F-150, Expedition, and Navigator use plenty — takes much of the blame.

While Expedition sales fell 15.4 percent in January, year over year, Ford credits the drop to fleet order timing. Sales of the Navigator, on the other hand, shot up 97.5 percent compared to a year earlier.

[Sources: Reuters, Automotive News] [Images: Ford Motor Company]

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  • Thegamper Thegamper on Feb 12, 2018

    I have to believe the profit margin on a $100k Navigator is well over 50%. These are nice looking vehicles but that is an astronomical price. Jut buy a F150 with a topper, Buy a bunch of chrome tape and some murdered out rims, replace the badges and save yourself $70K. Most people wont know the difference, possibly including yourself. I guess I haven't reached that stage in my life yet where I enjoy completely wasting money by paying for vehicles by the pound and for square footage of chrome it boasts. I don't think I will ever subscribe to the "its better because it costs more" school of thought. But the UAW thanks you for their bonuses and raises, the Ford Family can enjoy another generation of leisure thanks to all those willing to pay huge premiums on extra large vehicles that don't cost all that much more to manufacture. Brilliant profiteering almost as diabolical as the pet rock.

    • See 2 previous
    • Thegamper Thegamper on Feb 13, 2018

      @CKNSLS Sierra SLT Haha, well I doubt that's what I would waste my money on when I reach that point but at least we can agree that these rigs aren't exactly a strong value proposition.

  • EBFlex EBFlex on Feb 12, 2018

    Good luck Ford. It’s pretty sad when you can barely build a better vehicle than the rather long-in-tooth Durango. Once you factor in the Durango’s price and compare it to the extremely overpriced Ford, it’s clear the Durango is a better vehicle. Nice try Ford. You bet the moon on the Expedition and once again came up short.

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    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Feb 12, 2018

      Uh, you realize the Expedition and Durango are in different size classes, right? The non-MAX Expedition has about 25% more volume behind the first row than the Durango and is about a foot longer.

  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are so many OEM-specific ones out there nowadays (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.