DEARBORN, Mich.—Ford says the first Explorer has rolled off the assembly line in Russia, marking the first time in the sport utility vehicle’s 23-year history it has been built outside of the United States.
Built at Ford’s Explorer plant in Chicago since 1990, the move to the Ford Sollers Elabuga Assembly Plant in Russia—about 1,000 kilometres east of Moscow—is the first full-production Explorer to be built internationally.
Previously, only knock-down versions—partially-built vehicles shipped abroad for final assembly—of the Explorer were built outside the U.S.
With exports of the Explorer increasing almost 65 per cent last year from 2011 to more than 24,000 vehicles, the move to Russian production comes in response to growing global demand for SUVs.
According to Ford, SUV sales accounted for 31 per cent of the Russian market in 2012.
“Russia is on its way to being the largest market in Europe and presents an enormous opportunity for growth,” Ford Sollers president and CEO Ted Cannis said in a statement.
“We anticipate SUV sales to continue to grow as Russian customers prefer the image and performance these utility vehicles provide in severe weather and challenging road conditions.”
The automaker says its Ford Sollers partnership plans to hire an additional 500 employees in Russia as production at the Elabuga plant ramps up.
The plant is currently home to some 1,500 employees.