1991: Ford Explorer
When Chrysler introduced its 1984 minivans, it revolutionized family transportation. But then along came the Explorer to overthrow the entire movement. At first glance, the Explorer wasn't much more than a Ranger compact pickup truck with an elaborate cargo shell and four doors. But it was jacked up for adventure with available four-wheel drive and sold in ads where it was seen crossing meadows instead of mall parking lots. Soon minivan sales were cresting, and then plummeting. And today virtually every manufacturer has an SUV in its inventory that attracts families or anyone who wants to look adventurous during their routine commutes.
What it's uniquely American: Pretending to be rugged pioneers, even while shopping at Target.