Ford Explorer: A Not so Rocky Road
There was just a small amount of trepidation as I took the key to Ford's redesigned Explorer sport utility vehicle for 2002, and got into the driver's seat. After all, this was the Explorer that in its previous model lifetime had been vilified for half a year following the revelation of catastrophic tire failures on some of the vehicles. This was the Explorer that had been touted as the best in class, middle-of-the road sport utility, as evident in its consistent, industry-topping sales numbers. And it was the vehicle that would have to stand its ground in the face of an increasing onslaught of competitors' models.
So Ford had a lot depending on this successor it babied through some three years of development.
Sorting the Causes
As a reporter who had followed the company's struggle with the Firestone tire failures, I also had learned some related points about the issue. It became common knowledge that few drivers ever bothered to check the air pressure, subjecting them to the potential of blowouts or loss of tread. And those who checked often didn't know what was right.
It was a driver responsibility I could claim ignorance of from personal experience in the past, but one I would be sure to pay attention to in the future.
And then there was the issue of the details of those accidents that didn't reveal if a driver was speeding, or distracted, or switching lanes in a reckless manner - or simply was driving down the road in a sensible manner when the failure occurred.
I had driven the previous Explorer on more than one occasion without complaints. One didn't try to get it to corner the way a sports car would. It wasn't intended for that purpose.
So with those caveats in mind, I turned on
the ignition key.
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