Ed Molchany has decided not to worry about the damage Firestone tires have done to the Ford Explorer nameplate. He has a new sport-utility to market.
As far as the marketing manager for the redesigned Explorer is concerned, that means he has a clean slate.
'Ninety percent-plus of owners said they would buy another Explorer if it didn't have Firestone tires,' Molchany said about Ford Motor Co.'s internal survey. 'Once that's taken care of, then we shouldn't have to come back and (say),`Here's the tire plan.' ' So the marketing will ignore the tire recall. Instead, Molchany will pitch the redesigned Explorer's brand image and new features. The 2002 model goes on sale in the first quarter.
'The name Explorer is synonymous with SUVs in many ways,' Molchany said. 'It's more than just a badge on a product.'
That brand advertising would get into the psychographics of owners.
'Our customers are explorers, they're doers,' Molchany said. 'They're experienced collectors.'
Most important, they're loyal. Forty-four percent of Explorer owners maintain loyalty to the nameplate and 70 percent to Ford, Molchany said.
U.S. sales are up 6.6 percent for the Explorer in the first 11 months of this year, compared with the same period last year. Sales were aided this year by the addition of a new version, the Sport Trac.
'We intend to focus most of our marketing efforts on our owner base,' he said. 'The burden is on the new competitors to make the case.'
Those new competitors include the Acura MDX, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Toyota Highlander and the redesigned GMC Envoy.
Despite new features on the 2002 Explorer, notably an independent rear suspension, the sticker will not rise from the 2001 figure. The base price for an automatic is $25,715, including freight charges.
You can reach Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell at [email protected] or at (313) 446-0374