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North American International Auto Show: Ford Fusion is Serious

Last week George asked us to share our pre-NAIAS thoughts on what the show might hold for each the VehicleVoice staffers. One of my interests centered on the reveal of the 2013 Ford Fusion, as it represents one for Ford’s single most important vehicles in maintaining momentum with US consumers. Ford’s last mid-cycle refresh of the Fusion, brought considerable attention to the vehicle and increased sales significantly. At NAIAS this week, VehicleVoice got the chance to review a completely updated model, which takes the Fusion to a new level.

Ford is not being shy about their intentions for Fusion. In the press reveal, Ford openly talked about Accord and Camry woes that started before the natural disasters, and have not relented. 2013 Fusion advertising touts “More than a new car model. A new model for cars”. We’ve seen this language before from Detroit, and it is often been offered with products that don’t deliver. In fact, it’s often apparent before the press conference is over. Not so, with the 2013 Fusion. This vehicle delivers.

From the front, one can seriously see Aston Martin design influence. It sounds crazy, but it works. “To me it looks expensive,” said AutoPacific’s Dave Sullivan. The new design is bolder, perhaps not as expressive as Hyundai’s Sonata, but that’s a good thing. It communicates style, but also maturity and longevity. The Inside of the vehicle communicates European feel of its siblings, Focus and Fiesta, but in a larger package more suited to US tastes. While the instrument panel is a bit busy to meet our taste, it conveys a more modern and sportier look than either Camry or Accord.

V6 engines continue to vacate this segment. With new engine technologies, AutoPacific is finding less consumers demanding a V6 in this and other similar sized segments. Ford will offer only four-cylinder engines.

• 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. No MPG figures revealed yet.
• 1.6-liter engine will deliver 26 mpg city/37 highway.
• Fusion Hybrid will get 47 mpg city/44 highway.
• Fusion Energi, the plug-in hybrid, will hit the equivalent of 100 mpg.

The current Fusion sold 248,000 units last year, an increase of 13 percent, and the third straight year of double-digit sales increases. While not pointing to any specific figures, it’s certain that Ford expects the new model to have further gains.

Depending upon how you slice it, the mid-sized car segment represents about half of the U.S. passenger car market last year. Camry was recently redesigned and has received below average reviews. With the Accord, Mazda6, and Nissan Altima coming up next fall, the overall picture gets even more competitive. There is also word out that Hyundai has shortened the life cycle of the current Sonata, likely increasing competition further in the near future.

While pricing has not been revealed, Ford expects to hold prices similar to the current model, which starts at $20,200. When asked if the New Fusion will reach tops in segment sales Allen Mulally responded that consumers would make that decision. That’s the right approach. Build the right vehicles and consumers will be happy to let you bring home a profit. We’re looking forward to watching this play out.

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