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Ford plans to ramp up production of the Explorer and Lincoln Navigator amid soaring demand

CNBC International 2018-02-12 10:31:00

Mack Hogan | CNBC A Lincoln Navigator on display at the New York Auto Show on April 12, 2017.

With demand for its redesigned full-size SUV's surging, Ford is expanding production of the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

The automaker will be increasing production of the two SUV's by approximately 25 percent. Both models are manufactured at Ford's truck plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

"The response form our customers regarding our new full-size SUV's has been exceptional," said Joe Hinrichs, president of global operations for Ford. In January, Navigator sales surged 88.6 percent according to the research firm AutoData.

In particular, Ford is finding very strong demand for the most expensive versions of both vehicles. The average transaction price for the Lincoln Navigator jumped by $21,000 in January, while the average price for a new Ford Expwdition was up $7,800 according to the automaker.

Earlier this month, Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the automaker could not make the Lincoln Navigator fast enough. Ford says the average Navigator was in Lincoln showrooms an average of just seven days last month, far shorter than the industry average.

The strong demand for full-size SUV's is welcome news for Ford, which is facing increased criticism from analysts and investors for being too slow to develop mobility services and solutions. Competitor General Motors has laid out a game plan for establishing a ride-hailing program using self-driving cars starting next year, but Ford's plans are further behind in development.

Under former CEO Mark Fields, the automaker said it would roll out a self-driving vehicle with no steering wheel by 2021. Since replacing Fields in May of last year, Ford's current CEO Jim Hackett has pushed the automaker to move even faster developing autonomous-drive vehicles.

As the automaker works to re-assure analysts about its future, the company is leaning on its pickup and SUV lineup for strong and profitable sales. Last year, sales of the Ford F-Series pickup jumped 9.6 percent, while its SUV sales were up 2.9 percent.

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