Too big to fail (the Ford Excursion story)
The Ford Excursion is an interesting, unique, and absurdist automobile. Upon its introduction in 1999, for the 2000 model year, it was one of the largest, heaviest SUVs ever produced. It was based on the chassis of the F-250 and could be optioned with the venerable 7.3L turbodiesel engine developed by International and licensed by Ford. When equipped with the 7.3L, it weighed a whopping 9,200 pounds. That’s five Smart Cars stacked on top of each other and a person sitting in the top one. That’s a Ford Raptor with your aunt’s Honda Accord hanging out of the bed. That’s 328 cinder blocks. Jeez. It also has an absolutely absurd and complicated resale value, caused in part by listings like the ad pictured below. Is that price valid given the market temperature? We’re going to try to find out. To an extent, it still stands in a league of its own. In order to understand its current market value, you first have to consider the many factors that allowed it to come into being at all, and its current relation with the American car buyer.
Why does it exist at all?
Let’s take a step back from discussing its value. Its existence propagated from a mixture of factors. The economic boom in the early 90s (created by either Clinton or Reagan, depending on to whom you pose the question) mixed with gas that was finally getting more affordable, created a massive demand for SUVs. The bigger the better, because of the low economic difference that it made. Climate change be damned, right? I don’t think that existed before An Inconvenient Truth. A clear illustration of this situation: In 1996, Ford opted to discontinue its Bronco line – which had been on sale for 30 consecutive years and had grown by nearly three feet in length – in favor of making the Expedition, an even larger four door SUV for the younger end of the GenX-With-Kids demographic. However, the length and capability of the Expedition ended up slotting in between the Tahoe and Suburban of the similar vintage, creating a predicament for those cross-shopping the two vehicles. That’s not important though.
So… what makes the Ford Excursion interesting?
My personal favorite thing about the Ford Excursion is simple: its massive size literally puts it in a league of its own. It joins the ranks of other oddballs like the Plymouth Prowler, the Isuzu Vehicross, and the Polaris Slingshot of being an option with nothing that can be reasonably cross-shopped against it without casting a very, very wide net. In addition to that, it has a highly desirable engine in the 7.3L, which also creates a bubble in the light-duty truck market. For that reason, it (and those other examples mentioned) has a used market that is completely unpredictable and very hard to quantify. Let’s take a look at some Ford Excursion national values.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, huh? While there is a small positive correlation between price and model year, it is NOT consistent. Out of the 66 data points on the left-hand graph, 37 listings (more than half) are valued at above $10,000, and 17 are above $15,000. And that’s not even the weirdest part. If you look at the right-hand graph (price vs. mileage), you’ll see almost zero correlation. Past 100,000 miles (where a majority of the data falls), the data sits in an unpleasant little square where mileage contributes almost nothing to asking price and some models in excess of 200,000 miles still command over $15,000.
It gets weirder.
When you drill down further to a specific year, you see an even more rampant lack of consistency. The majority of the data past 100,000 miles falls solidly between $15,000-$20,000, and is almost completely irrespective to the listed mileage. In fact, if you look at the quadrant with the highest concentration of data points (100,000-200,000 miles/$10,000-$20,000), there is actually a mild positive correlation between price and mileage. Without any supporting context, this seems totally illogical. There’s only one explanation that makes sense: without any natural predators, the tiger is free to prowl the jungle at will. With no reasonable substitutes, the Ford Excursion may continue to prowl the concrete jungle of the used-car market and set its price based solely on its own fluctuating demand; king of the hill.