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The Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander have excellent reputations in the midsize three-row SUV class. As a result, the two dominate the U.S. market. In the first quarter of 2023, they accounted for nearly 40% of sales in their segment. Here’s a look at these two popular three-row midsize SUVs

Here’s a look at the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander 

In 1991, Ford introduced its first vehicle under the Explorer nameplate. It was meant to replace the outgoing Bronco II two-door wagon. Now in its sixth generation, the Explorer remains a sought-after SUV.

Ford offers the 2023 model in eight trim levels: base, XLT, ST-Line, Limited, Timberline, ST, Platinum, and King Ranch. The base model starts at $36,760, while the range-topping King Ranch starts at $54,075.

In comparison, the Toyota Highlander is newer to the game, debuting as a 2001 model. Despite being a decade younger, the Highlander hasn’t had any problem establishing itself as a force in the three-row midsize SUV segment.

The 2023 Highlander is available in seven trims: L, LE, XLE, XSE, Bronze Edition, Limited, and Platinum. The base model retails for $36,620, while the top-tier Platinum starts at $49,475. 

The Explorer and Highlander dominate the midsize 3-row SUV segment

While they both have individual pros and cons, the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander routinely dominate the midsize three-row SUV segment. They’ve sold more than 100,000 units each in the U.S. market in the past six months.

According to GM Authority, Explorer and Highlander sales also combined to make up nearly 40% of three-row midsize SUVs sold in the first quarter of 2023. 

During Q1 2023, 300,600 units were sold in this segment, of which 58,061 were Explorers and 55,344 were Highlanders. That means the Explorer took 19% of the segment share, while the Highlander came in second with 18%. In comparison, the third-place SUV in this segment, the Chevy Traverse, sold 31,553 units in Q1, giving it only 10% of the segment share.

The numbers don’t lie. With their next closest competitor more than 20,000 units behind, the Explorer and the Highlander are conquering the midsize three-row SUV segment. 

Is the Highlander losing its edge?

There’s no denying the Highlander is one of the most dominant midsize three-row SUVs. However, the numbers show sales have been slipping for Toyota’s stalwart. The Highlander still holds 18% of the segment share as of Q1 2023. However, GM Authority also reports Highlander sales are down over 16% from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023. In Q1 2022, Highlander dominated by selling 66,026 units and making up 25% of the segment share. 

With the Toyota Highlander losing sales between 2022 and 2023, competitors have seen some gains. For example, Chevy Traverse sales expanded by over 34% from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023, increasing from 23,464 to 31,533 units. 

Other SUVs have also experienced significant growth over the past year, with the Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, and Dodge Durango enjoying over a 20% increase from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023. However, no midsize three-row SUV experienced more growth between Q1 2022 and Q1 2023 than the Nissan Pathfinder. It saw over a 164% increase, from 8,975 units in Q1 2022 to 23,770 in Q1 2023. 


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