We know the Ford Explorer has been one of the best-selling midsize SUVs in the U.S. market over the past year, but it is also one of Ford's most popular SUV models in some overseas markets as well. It has become so popular in Russia that the Ford Sollers plant in Elabuga, Tatarstan, will transition from production of knockdown kits of the Explorer to full on-site production. The plant started officially building complete Explorers last Thursday.
Last month, exports of the Explorer rose 65 percent, totaling 24,000 vehicles to more than 60 international markets. The top export destinations for the vehicle were Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Ford sold 400 Explorers in February 2013 in Russia, a new record for the model. SUVs accounted for 31 percent of Russian new vehicle sales in 2012. Popularity of SUVs in Russia is attributed to the appeal of their rugged image, as well as their more sure-footed handling on the country's sometimes poorly-maintained or weather-ravaged roads.
An additional 500 employees will be added to the plant's 1500 current workers to support full production of the Explorer at Elabuga. Explorers for other world markets will continue to be sourced from Chicago.