With more and more consumers looking to buy a midsize SUV, Ford (F) is rolling out a fresh version of its iconic Explorer model. Unveiled Wednesday in New York, it's the first all-new version of the Explorer in eight years.
"The company thrives when we have fresh product, it is just as simple as that," Ford's president of global markets, Jim Farley, told CNBC after unveiling the new Explorer. "With this new line-up of utilities from top to bottom, it is just really going to allow us to grow."
The 2020 Explorer has been redesigned with special features, new technology and creature comforts SUV owners have come to expect. That includes Ford Co-Pilot360 which provides driver assistance to avoid collisions. In addition, Ford increased the towing capacity by 66 percent while making the Explorer lighter and more fuel efficient.
Starting at $33,000, the new model goes on sale this summer, Ford said.
"The new Explorer is very important for Ford," said Jeff Schuster, analyst at automotive consulting firm LMC Automotive. "Even though the Explorer is the top-selling midsize SUV, there's a lot more competition and new models coming in the next couple of years."
While there were 21 midsize SUV's available in the U.S. last year, LMC Automotive expects that number to climb to 26 next year and to 30 models by 2022.
That competition will be looking to cut into the Explorer's No. 1 position in the midsize SUV market. Last year, Ford sold more than 261,000 Explorers. An impressive number considering the model has not had a major makeover in years.
"The Explorer is really in the sweet spot of the market," said Schuster. "Last year, midsize SUVs made up almost 14 percent of the market and we think the segment will keep growing."
Whether or not the Explorer remains the leader of the SUV market remains to be seen, but the new model should position Ford to continue doing well in that segment. That's critical since Ford will be relying on its trucks and SUVs to generate profits while it restructures its business, investing billions in future technology like autonomous drive vehicles.
"We are on our toes again," said Farley. "We will grow more revenue, better profitability, you know, this is when the car business is great."
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