KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Ford Division will take on the Chevrolet Tahoe Sept. 26 with the introduction of the full-sized 1997 Ford Expedition sport-utility.
Ford expects to sell 130,000 to 140,000 Expeditions in the 1997 model year, and predicts that about half of those units will be conquest sales from other vehicle makers. The remaining purchasers will be Ford buyers who might otherwise have chosen a Ford Explorer, Ford Windstar, Ford Aerostar or a luxury car, said Dale Claudepierre, Expedition chief program engineer.
Ford unveiled the Expedition Thursday, May 9, at its annual meeting here.
The Chevrolet Tahoe is the Expedition's prime competitor. But Ford also hopes to capture Chevrolet/GMC Suburban buyers by stressing that the Expedition, which is 15.4 inches shorter, fits into a standard-sized garage. In fact, the Expedition is 7.6 inches shorter than Ford's Crown Victoria sedan. The Expedition, like the Suburban, also can hold up to nine people.
SHARING WITH F SERIES
Ford will begin producing the Expedition in July at the Michigan Truck plant in Wayne, Mich., which also builds the 1997 Ford F-150 pickup. Expedition shares nearly half of its components with the redesigned 1997 F series. That shaved almost one year from the Expedition's 34-month product development time and cut the cost of the program in half, Claudepierre said. Ford would not disclose investment costs.
Except for the grille, virtually everything forward of the Expedition A-pillar is common with the F series, including powertrain, front suspension, braking system, steering system and instrument panel.
Ford is using the Expedition's shortened development time and cost savings to champion its Ford 2000 product strategy, which relies on fewer product platforms and shared componentry to create a broader range of vehicles.
Prices have not been determined, according to Jim Englehart, vice president of Ford's light truck vehicle center.
Expedition advertising will stress the vehicle's functionality and its competitive advantages, which Ford says include best-in-class towing capacity, payload and highway fuel economy. Safety features such as standard dual airbags also will be highlighted, said Bob Girard, Expedition brand manager.
The typical Expedition buyer will have a household income of $75,000 to $85,000 and be 40 to 50 years old, he said. Sixty-five to 75 percent of buyers are expected to be male, 60 percent are likely to be college-educated, and 85 percent are likely to be married, Girard said.
Four-wheel drive is available as an option; XLT and Eddie Bauer models also are offered.
Other facts about the Expedition:
The base engine is a 4.6-liter V-8 generating 215 horsepower. A 5.4-liter V-8, rated at 230 hp, is optional. The 5.4-liter V-8 is being added to the F-150 and F-250 lines in fall.
The XLT has standard six-passenger seating; an optional third seat provides capacity for nine. The Eddie Bauer model carries a maximum of eight passengers because of a front-seat console.
When powered by the 5.4-liter V-8, the Expedition can tow up to 8,000 pounds and has a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. Cargo space is 115 cubic feet.
Standard features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes and a passive anti-theft system. Lighted running boards are optional.
Preliminary data indicate a highway fuel-economy rating of 19 to 20 mpg for two-wheel drive with the 4.6-liter engine and 17 mpg for the 5.4-liter.
NEW F-250, TOO
Ford also unveiled its 1997 F-250 pickups last week. The new under-8,500-pound gross vehicle weight F-250 has a lineup that includes regular-cab and SuperCab two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models. Four trim levels are offered. Production begins in July, and a September introduction is planned.
The F-250 is powered by the 4.6-liter V-8; a 5.4-liter V-8 is optional. The 4.6-liter can be mated with a standard five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic. The 5.4-liter is available only with a four-speed automatic.
Maximum payload capacity is 3,340 pounds, up 1,075 pounds from the 1996 model. The maximum 8,700-pound tow rating is a 500-pound increase over the 1996 model.