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TheStreet Open House

10 Most Iconic Cars of the Past 25 Years

Stocks in this article: FTMGMHMC

9. Ford Explorer (1991-94)

Where did the great American station wagons and minivans go? This sport utility vehicle ate them.

While not the first of its kind, the Explorer was the first SUV to capture the American consciousness. Buoyed by relatively cheap gasoline and a recovering U.S. economy, the Explorer saw sales jump from 283,000 in 1991 to nearly 403,000 in 1996. Drivers liked sitting up high and having all the cargo room of their minivan without all of the uncool stigma attached to it -- you know, the stigma of being a parent who cares.

Sure, the Explorer had a high center of gravity that became a point of contention when the National Highway Traffic Safety administration got on Ford and tire maker Firestone's case about an abnormal number of blowouts and resulting rollovers in 2000. You can thank both of them for the vehicle stability features and seemingly insatiable tire pressure indicators that found their way into every vehicle thereafter.

The Explorer made the U.S. a nation of SUVs but, as mentioned in the Aztek example, fell out of favor quickly once gas prices soared and the economy stalled. Sales plummeted from a high of 445,000 in 2000 to just 52,000 by 2009. Of the top eight vehicles traded in during the Obama Administration's "Cash For Clunkers" program, various model year Explorers accounted for six of them.

Sales have since climbed back up to 178,000 in 2013, but the Explorer is now just another crossover vehicle among the sea of similar vehicles that arrived during its downfall. In a nation that loves itself a Honda CR-V, a Toyota RAV4 or Ford's own Escape, the Explorer is just an oversized reminder of an indulgent, bloated automotive past.

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