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Best-selling 2020 Ford Explorer keeps distancing itself from the competition

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When a vehicle has dominated its class for years, it’s standard operating procedure to keep doing what works while making incremental changes to keep fans coming back for more. Ford’s intentions of eliminating most of their passenger cars from their lineup changes the calculus. This is why the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer made big changes as well as added two new styles to the family.

The Limiting Hybrid and ST versions of the Explorer will give it the flagship options that it’s star SUV needs in order to attract the masses flocking to the midsize SUV segment. But the 2020 model didn’t just add versions. They redesigned the entire vehicle, including switching it from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive, a platform shift that will also improve the popular 4×4 variation.

“Changing the Explorer to rear-wheel drive was a really big deal,” said Ford Motor Company’s Executive Vice President Jim Farley. “It allows our designers to deliver those beautiful proportions, give that athletic stance for Explorer, and helped our engineers to do so much more. The best towing capacity we’ve ever had. Off-road ability you hear about. On top of all that, it gave the customer more room.”

With 5,600 lb for towing, it’s more than older Explorers. More importantly, it’s more than their competitors in the segment.

But Ford will need more than a couple of new versions of the Explorer and more towing power if they intend to make a strong move in the segment. Despite the segment growing 11% last year, Explorer’s sales numbers declined 3.5%. It’s still on top, but the contradicting directions on sales numbers was a clear indicator they needed to make big changes.

The hybrid model will obviously attract a completely different type of buyer, but it’s with the new ST that Ford hopes to impress those who are moving from performance sedans or even sports cars to the midsize SUV market. The new 2020 Ford Explorer ST trim is basically a performance package. It’s the most powerful Explorer Ford has ever built with a 3.0L, twin-turbocharged V6 with 400 hp and 415 ft-lb of torque. We’ll confirm our expectations when we’re able to actually drive it, but based on the numbers we’ve seen, this is going to be an extremely fun SUV to take on the road.

The biggest changes over the previous generation are on the inside. Technology has been an unavoidable push by every automaker as they attempt to keep up with the rapidly improving available options. Today’s cars are smart cars. We’re seeing the transition in a way that’s extremely similar to what happened between smartphones and feature phones. If your vehicle doesn’t have a touchscreen infotainment system and safety assistance features, it’s old.

Ford clearly took this to heart with their most connected and functional technology suite ever in the new Explorer. It has two option touchscreens with similar capabilities to a smartphone. With connection options to Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, there is no shortage of ways the drive and passengers can interact with the outside world.

Safety features are dramatically improved with braking assist moving forward or backwards, lane assist that knows when the vehicle is towing, and cameras on all sides to keep full awareness.

“In the insider, there are thousands of thoughtful touches,” Farley said. “A second row seat that a child can activate and move forward with one hand, cup-holders that double as juice box holders. It’s an SUV for families that is so smart in a way that we couldn’t even imagine years ago. Speaking to Alexa to unlock your car, start the ignition. The vehicle can even read speed limiting signs and actually react to them to save you a ticket.”

With all of this, the price tag is only expected to go up $400 from the previous generation.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said, “If there’s a heart and soul of Ford Motor Company, it’s this vehicle.” We’ll see if midsize SUV buyers agree when the 2020 Ford Explorer goes on sale this spring.

As a side note, Micah Muzio, managing editor for video at KBB, is the most entertaining car review guy on YouTube.

 

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Automotive

GM rebounds with $8.1B 2018 profit on strong pricing

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GM rebounds with 81B 2018 profit on strong pricing

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors posted an $8.1 billion net profit for 2018, fueled by better prices for vehicles sold in the U.S., its most lucrative market.

It’s a strong rebound from the previous year when the company lost $3.9 billion on a giant tax accounting charge.

GM made $10.8 billion before taxes in North America, down about 9 percent from 2017. But it still means big profit-sharing checks for about 46,500 union workers in the U.S. They’ll get $10,750 each, less than last year’s $11,500.

The company said Wednesday that it made $5.58 per share for the year. Without $2.5 billion worth of special items largely due to restructuring, the profit was $6.54, easily beating Wall Street expectations of $6.29, according to a survey by FactSet.

Full-year revenue rose 1 percent to $147.05 billion, also beating estimates of just over $145 billion.

GM made $2 billion, or $1.40 per share in the fourth quarter. Excluding restructuring charges, the company’s per-share earnings were $1.43, also breezing past Wall Street expectations of $1.24.

Shares of GM rose almost 3 percent at the opening bell.

Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara said GM said it made $2 billion on its joint venture in China last quarter, despite slowing auto sales in the country.

The Trump administration’s tariffs on imported aluminum and steel raised prices of those commodities, costing the company more than $1 billion last year. Suryadevara expects another $1 billion increase this year.

“It’s a volatile environment as you well know, and we’re going to have to see how that goes,” she said.

GM has managed to offset some costs with efficiencies, she told reporters Wednesday.

Even with the profit, GM’s U.S. sales last year fell 1.6 percent as big SUVs and the company’s top-selling Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck faltered during the fourth quarter. But sales of many smaller SUVs rose and the average sale price of a GM vehicle hit a record of $36,974, the company said. GM’s U.S. market share 0.4 percentage points to 16.7 percent.

The profits are being announced as GM lays off about 4,300 white-collar workers, many of them at its giant technical center in a nearby suburb of Warren, Michigan. The company plans to close five U.S. and Canadian factories and eliminate a total of 14,000 salaried and blue-collar jobs as part of a giant restructuring to boost profit margins, prepare for a downturn and invest more in electric and autonomous vehicles.

GM wanted to cut 8,000 white-collar workers. About 2,200 took retirement offers, and the company let go of another 1,500. This week, GM started telling 4,300 other salaried workers that they were out of a job.

The company plans to eliminate about 6,000 factory worker jobs by closing three car assembly plants and two other factories. But it says there are 2,700 openings for U.S. workers at factories across the nation.

 


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2020 Kia Telluride can’t actually do what it did in its Super Bowl commercial

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2020 Kia Telluride cant actually do what it did in its Super Bowl commercial

Super Bowl ads have become a big part of the whole yearly ritual, and automakers are among those who spend big bucks to get in front of a huge television audience. Kia used their time to highlight the all-new 2020 Telluride by filming a very nice commercial about the community in which they are built.

That community happens to be less than a hundred miles from where the big game was played this year.

But there was a scene in the ad that paints the Telluride as able to do what few vehicle can – go through very deep water without stalling. The problem is, it can’t actually do that.

2020 Kia Telluride cant actually do what it did in its Super Bowl commercial

If you read the fine print that flashed on the screen for around 3 seconds, you’ll notice it says “DO NOT ATTEMPT. Water stunt performed with aftermarket snorkel. Professional driver on closed course.”

Don’t get me wrong. Stunts are done in commercials all the time that should never be attempted by average drivers, but they rarely demonstrate a feature of a vehicle that doesn’t exist. This shot, while extremely cool, may mislead people into believing they can drive their Telluride into water without fear.

They can’t, at least not without the aftermarket snorkel they mentioned.

It’s a shame because this was my favorite of the car commercials aired during the Super Bowl. Yes, it was a great shot. No, they shouldn’t have included it in the ad even with the quick disclaimer attached.

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Why the 2019 Silverado 1500 ad for The Lego Movie 2 is the future of entertainment tie ins

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Why the 2019 Silverado 1500 ad for The Lego Movie 2 is the future of entertainment tie ins

In 1992, Wayne’s World did a bit where they mock product placement and promotional materials in movies by claiming they would never do such a thing. While they were railing against the practice, promotional material was prominently placed throughout the scenes and even worn by the characters. It was an iconic moment in the classic comedy because in many ways, it was true.

For decades, companies have placed their products in television and movie sets to drop the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) message into the flow of the entertainment. Cars are especially prominent, especially when there’s a high speed chase scene to film. But what about kids’ movies? LEGO and Chevrolet teamed up to make the epic video above that proves you don’t have to be subtle when pitching your vehicles.

Cross-promotional advertisements aren’t new, either, but this one is one of our favorites. It’s literally an options-laden ad without the pretense of working in features into the entertainment. That alone would make it epic, but there’s one more thing to consider. The blatant marketing working against the backdrop of an upcoming movie gives it viral potential for fans of both brands. The whole can be made greater than the sum of the parts.

Rather than working products into movies, perhaps they should follow Lego’s and Chevy’s lead and start working the movie into the product advertisements. It’s more honest and likely more effective.

 


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