Ford's expanding showroom: too much duplication?

The Ford Edge. The Ford Flex. The Ford Explorer. Wow. That's a lot of crossovers in one lineup.

It begs the question: Are the Explorer's real competitors the Honda Pilot, Toyota 4Runner and GMC Acadia -- or rather its sister vehicles in the Ford division lineup?

Ford's main rivals - Chevrolet and Toyota - also market multiple crossovers each - the Chevy Equinox and Traverse, and the Toyota RAV4, Venza and Highlander.

I'm sure Ford dealers won't mind some in-house competition as long as it yields a sale of one of the three.

While it uses a platform shared with the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans, Ford says the new Explorer remains an SUV, fully capable of whatever off-road and towing activities its drivers wish to engage in.

Other SUVs, such as Range Rover and the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee, have successfully made the transition to unibody platforms and still are full-fledged SUVs - the same transition the Explorer is making.

But just how will those Ford sales folks promote the differences between the three vehicles? Could three somewhat similar vehicles create confusion for consumers?

Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.'s head of global marketing, says it's not a problem.

The Edge, he argues, only offers two-rows of seating. The redesigned Explorer is roomier with three-rows of seating. And the Flex is popular among more traditional SUV buyers, so those people will naturally gravitate to it.

Farley's take on the many crossovers of Ford is simple: “Our showroom is expanding. That's the whole idea.”