During consumer research interviews, customers said towing capacity was "very, very, very, very important," said Craig Patterson, SUV marketing manager at Ford.
But when asked what they tow -- boats, horse trailers, equipment -- folks answered again and again, "Nothing."
"What that told me is that the customer wants the vehicle to enable whatever that adventure might be," Patterson said. "They might want to go buy a boat or someday get a Jet Ski. This is an adventure enabler.'"
Company Chairman Bill Ford, at the Wednesday evening event at Ford Field, said, "At Ford, we believe in the freedom of movement and the power of the outdoors to remind us of our humanity."
With more than 7.8 million sold, more Explorers have been purchased since the original model debuted as a 1991 model than any other SUV. The 2020 model will have a base price of $33,860, Ford said Wednesday evening.
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This latest endeavor involved in-home visits to families that agreed to an offer of $250 for two-hour observation of use of space in garages, basements and closets.
"We wanted to see how customers live and interact day to day," Patterson said.
The rear-wheel drive layout (with an all-wheel-drive option) enables a sporty design, improved on- and off-road capability, and 600 pounds more towing capacity. The SUV has a 10.1-inch touch screen; drive assist technology that includes reverse brake assist, and active park assist that handles all steering, shifting, brake and accelerator controls with the touch of a button.
"You can parallel park and perpendicular park with one finger now," said Chris Billman, Ford global driver assist technology manager. "If you need help getting out (of a tight parking space), it can help with that, too."