DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. told a group of dealers today that the redesigned Explorer SUV might be launched as a 2012 model.
Ford also told the dealers it is running a national advertising campaign promoting service and maintenance at Ford dealerships, to support dealer profitability.
“Service is a big part of profitability,” said Morrie Wagener, owner of Morrie's Automotive Group in Long Lake, Minn. “It's hard to make money on the new-car business.”
In a dealer meeting here, Ford gave some dealers a sneak peek at the redesigned Explorer.
Dealers who attended the meeting said Ford also told them it is undecided on whether the Explorer will arrive as a 2011 or 2012 model.
Ford gave no reason for the indecision. It has been reported that Ford would build and sell the redesigned Explorer late this year as a 2011 model. To qualify as a 2012 model, Ford would have to wait until Jan. 1 to sell the SUV.
“This now puts the launch date in question,” said a dealer who attended the meeting in Detroit.
A spokesman for Ford said no delay on the Explorer production has occurred.
“We have not announced the model year for the Explorer,” Jay Ward, a Ford spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to Automotive News. “I can confirm that the vehicle goes into production in 2010 and that there are no delays in the program.”
Ford will publicly reveal the Explorer later this summer, Ward said.
Dealers who got to see it today said the body design is rounder than the current Explorer. Some dealers said it resembles a larger version of the Ford Edge crossover.
The redesigned Explorer will have a new platform. The next-generation Explorer will share a unibody platform with the 2010 Ford Taurus. Ford plans to offer front- and all-wheel-drive models.
The automaker will offer the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine on the next-generation Explorer. Ford is expected to offer a six-cylinder engine as well.
Ford canceled its body-on-frame Explorer a few years ago as SUV sales tanked and crossover sales increased. Through April, Explorer sales are up 41 percent to 19,487 units.
Ford also is promoting dealers' service and maintenance business in a series of spots featuring Mike Rowe. Ford initially aired two television spots, which started running April 5. Ford will release more spots throughout the year, a spokesman says. The campaign runs through November.
Rowe is the host of “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel. He also hosts Ford's “Swap your Ride” commercials, which started April 6 and run through May 31.
Ford showed several of the spots at today's meeting to emphasize how it's helping dealers raise profitability.
“These meetings have been about doing it right in the service department and being profitable,” said a dealer who attended the meeting. “Ford's goal is for both of us to be profitable. Too many dealers for years took their eye off service. Now it is necessary to make profits.”
The campaign includes several television spots, some webisodes and 19 radio spots, another dealer who attended the meeting said. The message encourages customers to come to their local Ford dealership for new tires, brakes, oil changes and other “affordable maintenance,” said that dealer.
“In keeping with our collaborative approach, these ads were developed with input from dealers and they focus on our expertly trained Ford technicians,” Ford spokesman Steve Kinkade wrote in an e-mail.