Ford Fusion Surprises?

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Fusion Hot Out of the Blocks
Fusion is Ford’s new mid-size sedan and is a very respectable piece of work. It has distinctive styling, a good sized interior and a large trunk. This combination puts Fusion in the hunt to attract buyers of mid-size cars that have been unable to consider a Ford since the demise of the easily forgotten Ford Contour (and who can’t forget its predecessor – the Tempo). For the first time in years, Ford has a competitive mid-size entry worthy of consideration. The first full month of sales for the Ford Fusion was October, 2005. Fusion, right out of the blocks, looks like a surprise winner with slightly over 4,000 units sold.
In a departure from conventional mid-size car marketing, Ford says they are not going after buyers who would consider the high volume Japanese entries like Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. Instead, they think they can have a pretty healthy business selling to Mustang owners who are moving into a mid-size sedan after their fling with the most popular sporty coupe on the planet.

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Ford Gives Explorer Major Facelift

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After the all-new Fusion mid-size sedan, the most significant product in Ford’s 2006 lineup is the Explorer. Ford focused on three primary areas and revised nearly all systems for this heavy mid-cycle change. The program updated power, comfort, and safety.
Its all-new frame borrows engineering tips from the F-150, specifically the larger truck’s tube-through-tube design. This stiffer frame is the base that allows the overall safety and NVH improvements, improves ride and road feel, and should reduce long-term squeaks and rattles. Explorer’s 4.6L V8 is upgraded to three valves per cylinder and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination improves power to the tune of an additional 53HP (to 292HP), while improving fuel economy, Ford says, by about ten percent. The six-speed auto performs smoothly and quietly on the road and extra power is nearly always appreciated. Revisions to the V6 result in 74% cleaner emissions, but no extra power.
Exterior changes include a redesigned front grille that clues you in to the trim level you’re seeing. Most models feature a grille with two openings; the larger upper opening holds four bars. The XLS grille is grey, while XLT and Limited get chrome grilles.

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Hyundai Writes a Check… Hyundai Assembly Plant in Alabama

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Hyundai Launches New Alabama Assembly Plant

May 19, 2005, Montgomery, Alabama: AutoPacific attended the opening celebrations for the new Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama on May 19, 2005. This was a great, gala event, complete with a chartered Boeing 747 full of Hyundai executives, Korean press and government officials and featured remarks by no less than George H. W. “Big” Bush, 41st president of the United States! (And yes, the place was swarming with Secret Service, a SWAT Team and even a sniper team on the roof with a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle).

It is estimated that no less than 4,000 people were in attendance, including Hyundai and supplier employees. The 98-degree, 100-percent humidity day only dampened the event slightly.

The star of the show wasn’t the party, but rather the assembly plant itself and the commitment it represents.

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Lexus – Nissan Wins 2005 AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Top Brand – Most Wins

Lexus Wins AutoPacific 2005 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Top Brand – Nissan Has Most Wins Overall

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“Lexus’ win comes from an especially strong showing by its LS430 Premium Luxury Car and RX330 Luxury Sport Utility. Strong vehicle scores combined with real luxury-level customer handling at Lexus dealerships edges Lexus ahead of other luxury brands like Cadillac, Jaguar, Lincoln, BMW and Mercedes.”
While Lexus won the statistical battle, Nissan won the battle for the most entries winning Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. In an unprecedented performance, seven Nissan vehicles won VSAs. Often criticized in pure quality surveys where things like fit and finish, wind noise and squeaks and rattles are measured, Nissan products certainly satisfy their owners.
Nissan North America has seven winners this year, tops among the various corporations. Nissan sweeps the pickup categories with wins in both segments. The Nissan Titan takes the Full Size Pickup category and is the top-rated vehicle overall. Completing the pickup sweep is a win by the Frontier in the Compact Pickup category. Nissan Maxima is at the top of the Entry Luxury Car category and also the top-rated car, the Nissan Armada takes the Large SUV category for the second year in a row, Nissan Altima is the winner of the Premium Mid-Size Car category (tied with the new Buick LaCrosse), the Nissan Murano wins the Premium Mid-Size SUV category. The Nissan Quest is in a 3-way tie as the most satisfying Minivan.


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2005 Japanese Minivans Tie for AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Japanese Minivans Win AutoPacific 2005 Minivan Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“In the first ever 3-way tie in AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award research, the three Japanese brand Minivans are in a dead heat. Owners of Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna rate the three Minivans so equally it is difficult to tell them apart. The differences in ratings between the three are usually too close to call. Toyota and Honda owners rate their Minivans ahead on brand reputation, the Nissan is rated more fun to drive and easier to get into and out of. Nissan’s distinctive interior styling rates more strongly among its owners than the more conventional interiors of the Sienna and Odyssey.”
“It’s remarkable that these three Minivans are so close in their owner ratings. They have become similar to Premium Mid-Size Cars where many people feel they have to look at the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima when shopping for a Mid-Size Car. In minivans, many people think they have to at least look at the three Japanese-brand Minivans before making a decision. These are vehicles you don’t have to explain to your neighbors when they show up in your driveway.”
“For 2005, at least, American brands are not in the hunt for a Minivan category win.”


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2005 Tucson & Element Win AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Hyundai Tucson and Honda Element Tie for AutoPacific 2005 Compact Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“The larger stablemate to the Tucson – the Hyundai Santa Fe – has won (or tied) the VSA in its class for four of its five years on the market. In fact, Santa Fe owners were the first ever to rate a Korean brand vehicle tops in its category. With Santa Fe within a year of replacement, the Tucson continues Hyundai’s string of winning products. Tucson’s new style, new package, affordable pricing and outstanding warranty provide a combination that it difficult to beat.”
“Honda Element owners give the Element a tie with the new Tucson. Element styling may be the new king of funk, but its function wins the day. Element is easy to drive, easy to live with and highly functional. It may have been developed to be a rolling dorm room for twentysomethings, but the Xers and Boomers who are buying it think it is great.”

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2005 Equinox & Santa Fe Tie For AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Chevrolet Equinox and Hyundai Santa Fe Tie for AutoPacific 2005 Standard Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“Owners of the all-new Equinox rate their vehicle at the top of its category. We knew Equinox was something special when it was first shown at the North American International Auto Show. These results confirm our initial impression. A truly international product, Equinox is assembled in Canada and uses a V6 engine made in China. Nothing wrong with that combination according to its owners.”
“The Hyundai Santa Fe continues its string of category-leading performances. Santa Fe has won or tied in its category for four of the five years it has been on the market. This is a testament to Santa Fe’s strong combination of product competence, value and warranty. Santa Fe satisfies its owners and continues to help Hyundai build its brand image in the United States.”


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2005 Nissan Murano Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Nissan Murano Wins 2005 Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“Murano is the most satisfying Premium Mid-Size SUV for 2005. Murano’s distinctive styling and standard CVT clearly differentiate it from other vehicles in its class. Many would call it a crossover vehicle. It is based on a front wheel drive car platform, but that does not detract from the satisfaction Murano provides its owners. In 2003, in its first year on the market, Murano won honorable mention in AutoPacific’s VSA research. No honorable mention in 2005, Murano wins hands down.”

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2005 Nissan Armada Repeats as AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award Winner

Nissan Armada Wins AutoPacific 2005 Large Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Second Year in a Row

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“Armada is a significant vehicle for a variety of reasons, the most notable of which that it comes from a Japanese brand but is completely tuned for American tastes and sensibilities. Brand aside, there is absolutely nothing traditionally or typically Japanese about it. Armada is full size, and when we say full-size, we mean it! It has a powerful and sophisticated V8 engine, but not one a half-size below the domestic competition. Instead Nissan offers one bigger and mightier than the domestic competition! Armada is unapologetically made for North America and North America alone, with no compromises or shortcomings.”
“Armada was right for the market right out of the box for the 2004 model year when it won Large SUV honors. As a repeat winner, Armada’s 2004 performance surely was not a fluke.”

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2005 Volvo XC90 Top Luxury SUV Winning AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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Volvo XC90 Wins AutoPacific 2005 Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“The widely acclaimed Volvo XC90 car-based sport utility rates highest among Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles for 2005. XC90 owners rate their Luxury SUV strongly in the reputation of the Volvo brand, feeling safe while driving (no surprise there… it’s a Volvo!), front seat room, cargo capacity, interior materials, anticipated resale value, quietness and controls. These combine to deliver a very balanced product from a respected brand.”
The Infiniti QX56 was a close second to the Volvo. XC90 nosed out the QX56 due to its perceived superior safety attributes.


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