As demand for utility vehicles increases around the world, the Ford Explorer is being produced from the ground up outside of the United States for the first time in the iconic SUV’s history.
The first full-production Explorer rolled off the assembly line in April at Ford Sollers Elabuga Assembly Plant in the Republic of Tatarstan for the Russian market. Previously, only knock-down versions of Explorer had been built anywhere outside of the United States, including Elabuga, since 2012. Knock-down production means partially assembled vehicles are imported from the home plant – in this case, Ford’s Explorer plant in Chicago – along with the parts needed to complete them, and then fully assembled at the local facility.
Explorer sales in the U.S. rose 33 percent in March, marking the best monthly sales since the current model debuted in 2010. Since the vehicle hit the market in 1990, Ford has sold nearly 7 million Explorers in the U.S., leading the way as America began a love affair with SUVs that continues with today’s more refined and fuel-efficient models.
Here, Bruce Hettle, director of manufacturing engineering with Ford, talks global Ford SUV production, the Ford Production System, and the future auto market.
Q: Why did Ford decide to expand SUV production outside of the United States?
A: The demand for sport utility vehicles is growing in Russia, and local production will help to strengthen the Ford brand position in Russia’s popular sport utility vehicle segment.