In the first week of March, Matt Zuehlk came to the Greater Kansas City International Auto Show excited to talk about the new redesign of the 2016 Ford Explorer, which will come out in June.
Zuehlk, the Explorer brand manager in Dearborn, Mich., said Ford has taken an already popular large SUV to new heights.
One of the things that has made the Explorer popular over the years is its exterior styling.
“The exterior styling is of the utmost importance for Explorer buyers,” Zuehlk said. “They love the look. That is why they buy it today.
Sales have increased every year since the Explorer was launched, he said.
“The customers love it, but it is neat we are freshening the product while it is on top,” Zuehlk said.
The change is noticeable. It has a completely new front end, a completely new rear end and all new wheels.
“And it has an EcoBoost engine,” Zuehlk said. “About 95 percent of Ford products have the EcoBoost. This is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost with 300 pound-feet of torque, which has really impressive fuel economy and you are getting four-wheel drive and trailer tow, which you couldn’t get previously on the 2.0-liter EcoBoost Explorer.”
In addition, Ford is pushing the 2016 Explorer Platinum series as a luxury SUV.
“It is taking Explorer to new heights,” Zuehlk said. “It is the best of Explorer, best-ever package. When customers look in the door and they see the interior of the Platinum series, they are going to be absolutely hit over the head about how premium it is.”
Some of the interior features for the 2016 Platinum series will include stitched door armrest, refined accents and actual buttons for the infotainment system.
The new Platinum trim brings leather-based seats with micro-perforation and quilted stitching, a heated leather-based steering wheel, door panels with aluminum and ash wood finishes.
Zuehlk also talks enthusiastically about the new technology in the 2016 Explorer and the 2015 Ford Edge.
They have a 180-degree camera underneath the grill and a washer for the camera that keeps the camera free of debris. This is especially beneficial in colder climates to keep the lens clean of salt from snow.
The camera is great for safety.
“Let’s say you are nosing out into traffic at a busy intersection or pulling out of a parking lot,” Zuehlk said. “It will see left and right for you if there is oncoming traffic. The rear camera, which is standard on the Ford for 2015, also comes with a washer.
“We have enhanced park assists as well. It is an automatic parking feature. It will steer itself into a spot most efficiently. People can’t believe the vehicle is steering itself. This is futuristic stuff, but that is how smart these products are today.”
By the first week of March, Zuehlk said Ford already had 2,000 orders in the system for the 2016 Explorer.
“Dealers and customers are already excited about the new Explorer,” Zuehlk said. “We can’t wait to launch.
“The Explorer and Edge are massive to our business. We sold over 200,000 Explorers last year and over 100,000 Edges.”
Zuehlk said auto shows are important to get the message out on vehicles in a low-pressure environment.
“I love to talk product with consumers,” he said. “You learn anecdotally how they use their vehicles. It is great to talk face to face with the consumer and find out how it works with their lifestyle.
“A person can come here and look and feel and touch all the vehicles. A lot of people do shop online, but nothing replaces going out and seeing it, especially an involved purchase like a car.”
If you have a story you would like to see On the Move, email David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com.