By Dee-Ann Durbin
DETROIT—Ford hopes its redesigned Fusion can help it catch the Camry.
The original has been a huge hit since entering the market in 2005 and it topped the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata last year with sales of 250,000. But the Fusion is still lagging Toyota’s Camry, the best-seller among midsize sedans, which sold nearly 309,000.
Ford unveiled the new Fusion on Monday at the Detroit auto show. Gone is the shuttered grille, replaced by a more aggressive diamond-shaped one. The new version borrows the chiseled, aerodynamic look of Ford’s other new cars, the Fiesta and Focus.
In the past, Ford would make different versions of a car for different regions of the world, spending millions more on development. But the 2013 Fusion will be sold globally, so Ford canvassed customers worldwide before choosing the final design. The company changed its original headlight, for example, after Chinese customers found it too sinister.
Here’s more about the 2013 Fusion:
POWER: Ford will offer several types of Fusions, including a hybrid and plug-in hybrid. Ford expects the hybrid to get 47 miles per gallon in city driving, while the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid which runs for a longer time on the battery alone, should get the equivalent of more than 100 miles per gallon. A 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with Ford’s EcoBoost system will get 37 mpg on the highway, while a 2.0-liter EcoBoost will be offered in a performance version.
Ford’s base engine, a 1.6-liter I-4, will be the first Ford with an automatic stop-start system that shuts off the power when the car stops and restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal, reducing fuel consumption. It’s expected to get slightly better fuel economy than the current Fusion, which gets 33 mpg on the highway.
EXTERIOR: Ford wants the car to have a premium feel, so it even took the extra — and more expensive — step of embedding the Ford badge in the hood instead of attaching it to the grille. Ford designer Chris Hamilton described the look of the current Fusion as “slightly cold.” Of the new Fusion, he says, “we wanted that feeling of the surfaces being worked on by hand.”
INTERIOR: The 2013 has more rear-leg room thanks to thinner seats up front. Ford says it has used better, softer materials. Among the options are Ford’s Sync voice-controlled entertainment system and its My Ford Touch dashboard screen.
OPTIONS: Ford will be the only car in its class with a lane-keeping system, which uses cameras to monitor whether a driver is staying in his lane and alerts him if he swerves off course. It will also have a system that parallel parks the car automatically, a blind-spot warning system and a cross-traffic alert which monitors oncoming traffic when the car is backing out of a parking space.
PRICE: Not revealed. But Ford Americas President Mark Fields said Monday that it will have a base price close to the current Fusion, which starts at $20,200.
CHEERS: Analysts were wowed by the design at a preview last month. The Fusion is likely to follow the success of other recent Ford redesigns, including the hot-selling Ford Explorer SUV.
JEERS: There is some concern among analysts that Ford will price the Fusion too high, especially when buyers pile on the options. The new Ford Focus compact car has seen sluggish sales this year, in part because dealers were stocked with high-end versions that cost more than the Fusion.