Ford says its upcoming replacement for the evergreen Explorer SUV has not been delayed, despite rumors we’ve heard to the contrary from Ford’s suppliers. The automaker says that the Explorer is still on track to arrive in about a year as a 2011 model. We spoke to Ford’s Jay Ward for the automaker’s side of the story.

Code-named U502, Ford’s first unibody Explorer is set to start down the production line in July 2010 at Ford’s Torrance Avenue plant in Chicago. Supplier sources have indicated that the start of production has been delayed until at least September, but Ford tells us otherwise.

“While we are unable to talk specifically about the program timing, I can categorically state that the Explorer program has not been delayed in any way whatsoever,” spokesman Ward told Leftlane.

We circled back to our sources, following Ward’s statement, and it’s worth pointing out they stand by the original report, reiterating their claims of a delay. Moreover, they say this is the second the time the vehicle has been delayed.

The current Explorer has been mostly unchanged since its 2006 refresh, though much of the design dates back to 2002. Despite the conflicting reports, it seems certain the ‘ute will arrive as a 2011 model. What remains unclear is whether it will come in the summer or autumn of 2010.