Ford Unveils Its New King of the Road

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Get out of the way! Today in a press briefing, Ford Motor Co. rolls out the biggest sports utility vehicle to hit the road yet: The Ford Excursion, a 3.5-ton, 19-foot-long behemoth, coming to your nearest showroom this fall. The unveiling is no surprise, says TIME Detroit correspondent Nichole Christian: “It was only a matter of time before someone attempted to topple GM,” the current reigning colossus king and maker of the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban. The reason for the bigger-is-better drive is strictly bottom line. “Consumers have been saying these big vehicles are what they want,” says Christian, and automakers have been seeing nothing but green (as in greenbacks) for their SUVs. According to one report, the Ford Excursion is expected to sell for $45,000 to $50,000, yielding a hefty $12,000-to-$20,000-per-vehicle profit.

But a different kind of green (as in environment) is raising all sorts of red flags from environmentalists. The Sierra Club has already dubbed the Excursion a “suburban assault vehicle” and one of the group's officials described it as “a garbage truck that dumps its pollution into the sky.” That the new gas guzzler should be a Ford is rather ironic, says Christian. Company chairman William Clay Ford has vowed to make the automaker the leader in developing clean vehicles. Ford's explanation of the apparent Excursion eco-paradox: SUV consumers are not particularly concerned about gas consumption; nevertheless, the vehicle will produce 43 percent less smog than permitted by law.