Ford Explorer Sport Attracting Younger, More Affluent, Better Educated Customers to Ford Brand

Category: Ford, Ford Explorer
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  • Nearly one-quarter of Ford Explorer Sport buyers are under 35 years old; 54 percent are 44 or younger
  • 40 percent earn more than $150,000 annually, compared to 24 percent for the normally aspirated Explorer and 17 percent for the Ford brand overall; 15 percent of sales are to customers coming from luxury brands, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz
  • Biggest Explorer Sport markets are New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas, Chicago, Denver and Houston

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Since its launch in September 2012, the 365-horsepower, twin-turbocharged Ford Explorer Sport is proving it’s capable of far more than hauling families on their next cross-country adventure with performance and style. Research suggests Explorer Sport is also hauling younger, more affluent, better educated buyers into Ford showrooms.

Nearly one-quarter of Explorer Sport customers are under 35 years old, while 54 percent are 44 and younger, according to the Maritz Research New Vehicle Customer Study, which covers data from October 2012 through April 2014. For buyers of standard Ford Explorer models, 3 percent are under 35 and 32 percent are 44 and younger. Explorer Sport customers also tend to be more affluent, with 40 percent earning more than $150,000 a year, compared to 24 percent for standard Explorer buyers and 17 percent for the Ford brand overall.

“The importance of attracting younger, more affluent customers can’t be overstated,” said Matt Zuehlk, Explorer brand manager. “Younger buyers give automakers a better chance at customer retention, while affluent customers tend to buy highly contented, more expensive vehicles that are typically more profitable.”

The younger age demographic is surprising, as Explorer Sport carries a base price premium relative to Explorer – $43,565 versus $31,495. Interestingly, 90 percent of Explorer Sport sales come with a higher-level trim package that brings the cost to approximately $47,000.  Typically, older buyers have more disposable income to buy more expensive vehicles.

Education levels, too, indicate buyers for Explorer Sport. While 46 percent of Ford buyers overall hold a university or graduate degree, 60 percent of Explorer Sport customers have attained that level of education. This compares to 56 percent for Explorer buyers, according to Maritz.

Also interesting is that 15 percent of Explorer Sport customers are coming from luxury brands including Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Jeep Grand Cherokee is the vehicle these customers considered most seriously before choosing to buy Explorer Sport.

“We aren’t surprised by the luxury brand trade-ins for Explorer Sport,” said Zuehlk. “It offers world-class performance, comfort and technology at a more affordable price than traditional luxury competitors, especially in largely import luxury markets like New York and Los Angeles.”

New York and Los Angeles are the biggest markets for Ford Explorer Sport, followed by Detroit, Dallas, Chicago, Denver and Houston, according to Polk new vehicle registration data from IHS Automotive through the first half of 2014.

The success of Explorer Sport is part of an overall utility vehicle sales resurgence both Ford and the industry are experiencing with millennial buyers, those customers 18 to 34 years old. According to J.D. Power PIN data, Ford Explorer Sport spends an average of only 19 days on dealer lots before finding a buyer – making it one of the company’s fastest-selling models.

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