Ford’s remodeled Explorer in Japan has steering wheel on "wrong" side |

Ford’s remodeled Explorer in Japan has steering wheel on "wrong" side

TOKYO ” Ford’s new Explorer has the steering wheel on the “wrong” side in Japan ” on purpose. The U.S. carmaker hopes the change will the cache of the sport utility vehicle.

For years, Ford Motor Co. has sold right-hand drive model cars in Japan, where everyone drives on the left.

But studies conducted by Ford showed that left-hand drive cars are viewed as expensive status symbols, and that switching the steering wheel to the other side could enhance the allure of the Explorer, which are popular with upscale buyers.

“It’s offering the American way, an easier lifestyle that emphasizes the individual,” Ford Japan President Katsuhiko Sato said Thursday at a news conference unveiling the remodeled Explorer.

Ford hopes the new version of the car, the top-selling SUV in the United States for more than a decade, will help it achieve its goal of boosting sales in Japan by as much as 30 percent next year.

Sato said Ford is growing in Japan, well on its way to selling 6,600 vehicles in Japan, up 21 percent from 5,434 vehicles in 2003 ” although sales of foreign imported cars have been relatively flat in recent years.

Ford expects to sell 2,000 Explorers this year in Japan, where Ford also sells Mondeo, Focus and Fiesta sedans and Escape sport utility vehicle.

No other Japan models are planned with the steering wheel on the left, Sato said.

Ford also hopes to boost vehicle sales to 10,000 a year here “as soon as possible,” he said.

Sato said the Explorer is key to Ford’s growth strategy in the world’s second largest economy. Ford has sold more than 5 million Explorers since it was introduced in 1990.

For decades, U.S. automakers have struggled to boost sales in Japan, home to some of the world’s top automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.

Vail, Colorado

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