Analysts and investors have criticized Ford — and punished its stock — for falling behind on smaller crossovers and pickups and allowing its full-size SUVs to languish before last year's redesigns. Some also questioned its latest move.
"Even though SUV sales are robust, the market is starting to contract, and when dealer lots are inundated with SUVs of every size, shape and brand, it's going to take a lot to stand out," Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis at Edmunds, said last week.
But Ford executives insist they'll have an advantage. "Where we compete is what you're seeing Ford bet on," Farley said. "We don't just want to be in the generic SUV business. We want to be either in the performance or in the high-speed, off-road business."
That means an expansion of the ST performance badge, which Ford already announced for the freshened Edge coming this year. Farley said the Explorer also will get an ST variant.
He said Ford will offer a "lineup of off-road SUVs," including a small, purpose-built SUV and the Bronco, which is arriving in 2020. Farley said Ford was looking to target brands such as Jeep and Land Rover but with a different customer in mind.
"Both of these vehicles are for a growing group of people who want to simplify their life and get out there with their family and friends," he said. "For Jeep, that's rock-crawling in Moab. For Ford, our people want true off-road vehicles that are comfortable at high speeds. They don't want SUVs that look like doomsday vehicles or have spartan, government-issued interiors."