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How Ford Hopes to Win Over Gen X-ers With Its New Giant SUV

Ford Motor revealed Tuesday its 2018 Expedition, a full-size sport utility vehicle that’s bigger, lighter, and loaded with 40 new features—the kind of vehicle the automaker says is attractive to Generation X, the sometimes overlooked customer base squeezed between millennials and baby boomers.

The new Expedition, which was unveiled ahead of its official debut at the Chicago Auto Show, is part of Ford’s plan to introduce new five new SUV vehicles to the North American market by 2020. The automaker has already announced plans to produce the Ford Bronco, the smaller millennial-targeted EcoSport, and all-electric SUV.

Automakers have traditionally focused on selling SUVs to the two largest segments of the population: baby boomers and millennials. The Expedition is different; it’s aimed at Gen X parents who likely have more children, more disposable income, and greater cargo needs than the other two groups. There’s some disagreement on the age span of Gen X, but they’re typically viewed as people born between the early 1960s and 1980. (Or anyone who can quote lines from the movie Reality Bites.)

“The Expedition customer needs more of everything,” says Michael O’Brien, Ford SUV Group Marketing Manager. “They need more capability, they need more seating, they need more top-of-the-range towing capability, and they need more technology to keep their family connected and to keep them safe.”

SUVs have been the fastest growing segment of auto industry worldwide, making the vehicle type the centerpiece—or close to it— of every automaker’s portfolio. Auto shows the past several years have been taken over by new SUVs and smaller crossover vehicles.

Ford is no exception to the SUV rule. Sales of Ford SUVs are up 80% during the last five years globally. Last year, the automaker sold 1.7 million SUVS around the world, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president for the Americas, said during the Expedition reveal.

The automaker is banking on Expedition to help it continue its SUV sales streak. The company’s strategy: make it bigger and load it up with tech.

The new Expedition has an all-aluminum body—an industry first for this segment—that allowed engineers to shave 300 pounds of weight off the vehicle while increasing its size from the previous model. The Expedition is powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and new 10-speed automatic transmission. The SUV will be available in three trims: the XLT, Limited, and Platinum series. An XL version will be produced for fleet customers, such as law enforcement and emergency services.

And just in case the giant SUV isn’t quite big enough, Ford is making all series available in an extended length version.

Courtesy of Ford
Courtesy of Ford

The new vehicle also has a number of advanced driver assistance features, including park assist, a lane-keeping aid to prevent drifting, and adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance between vehicles.

The SUV, which will be manufactured at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Ky., is also equipped with a blind spot warning feature and a collision avoidance detection system, which is designed to help drivers avoid other vehicles or pedestrians.

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The SUV sits eight people—and tries to meet all of their entertainment demands. For instance, there’s a rear seat entertainment system and wireless charging via an integrated charging pad in the front center console. A Wi-Fi hotspot in the SUV supports as many as 10 devices and up to 50 feet away—a feature aimed at accommodating tailgaters, camping, and other group outings.

Other features in the new vehicle including a feature that makes it easier to back up a trailer, hands-free liftgate to make loading cargo easier, and a sliding second-row seat.