Ford was instrumental in the market-wide shift from family wagons, such as its own Taurus, to sport/utility vehicles, lead by the Explorer. Launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer came to define the midsize SUV and become a perennial best seller. There has been another shift in recent years: the emergence of "crossover" vehicles, which provide sport/ute ride height and versatility while riding on car-based platforms to minimize the dynamic and fuel-efficiency compromises. Honda and Toyota fueled the new segment's inertia with the CR-V and RAV4, later adding the midsize Pilot and Highlander.
Although the domestic manufacturers were slow to embrace this new vehicle type, having a crossover is now essential to any automaker's product portfolio. As Ford recognized the changing market and saw Explorer sales becoming vulnerable to fuel-economy concerns, its engineers tapped the corporate resource pool to spawn a midsize crossover SUV, the Freestyle, from the solid Volvo midsize-car platform, as well as a large sedan, the Five Hundred.
The Freestyle and the Explorer are a good example of the contrast between the two segments.... Read full article