Ford Explores This Fast-Growing Auto Segment

Ford (NYSE:F) unveiled the new performance version of its Explorer on Wednesday, a mid-size sport utility vehicle that will have a  3.5-liter twin-turbocharged, 350-horsepower V6 engine for better fuel economy. The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport can achieve 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 on the highway, said Ford

Ford currently has a 15 percent share of the SUV market in the U.S., but says consumers are now demanding more fuel-efficient, high-performance SUVs. “It’s really something that people were asking about,” said Eric Peterson, Ford’s marketing manager for utility vehicles.

Ford believes the new Explorer’s fuel economy and design elements will help it compete with Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. The SUV segment comprises 31 percent of auto sales in the U.S., and the mid-size category has grown 42 percent just in the last two years, which means over 13 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. are mid-size SUVs.

Ford’s Explorer is the fastest-growing SUV in the U.S., with sales rising 123 percent in 2011 to 135,000 units. The new model will be shown at the New York Auto Show next week.

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