Ford's 2013 Fusion Revs Ups Battle In Family Sedans

The 2013 Ford Fusion that will be unwrapped at the Detroit Auto Show next week looks “more like the ultraluxury sports car Aston Martin Vantage than the current boxy version” of the mid-size sedan, writes theWall Street Journal’s Mike Ramsey this morning. The radical new design is also said to draw inspiration from the highly praised Evos concept car that Ford showed in Europe late last year.

“"It's just drop dead gorgeous," Group 1 Automotive and former Ford sales and marketing executive Earl Hesterberg tells Ramsey. "It will be the most visually differentiated car in that segment in a long time.”

That segment, aka the “family” sedan, represents nearly 20% of total sales and the headline atop Ramsey’s story makes it clear that Ford’s intent is to “shake it up.”

“The midsize car segment has never been more competitive," says IHS Automotive Consulting analyst Michael Robinet. “It's a shot over the bow of the [Toyota] Camry, [Nissan] Altima and [Honda] Accord."



Two other cars -- the Chevrolet Malibu and the Hyundai Sonata -- are also part of the mix, points out Automotive News’ Rick Kranz, who writes that the stakes are high for both Ford and Honda at the North American International Auto Show, which kicks off with a press preview Monday and opens to the public on Jan 14. Why?

“Simply put: sales,” Kranz writes. “We're talking big-volume models. Plus, each car accounts for a significant share of its brand's sales.”

Honda will be introducing its Accord Coupe concept at the show, and keep your eye on the forthcoming punditry, he says, as the Malibu and Altima are also offering new looks this year. “The media's "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" will have a big impact on sales,” Kranz says.

A Ford press release issued Wednesday led with the Fusion’s debut and made the point that the vehicle had record sales last year, its fifth on the road. Sales between 2006 and 2010 rose 54%, in fact, while Camry rose only 27% and the Accord dropped by 20%, the release points out.

Motor Trend’s Ben Timmins puts some perspective on the percentages. Toyota sold 308,510 Camrys in the U.S. domestic market last year, beating its closest competitor, the Nissan Altima, by nearly 40,000 units. The Fusion was No. 3, with sales of 248,067 vehicles (up 13.2 % from 2010).

The aforementioned Ford release kicks off with news of a new app called the Lane Keeping System (LKS) that warns drivers if they are veering across the lines. It is “the first mainstream midsize sedan in North America to offer this technology,” it crows. LKS uses a digital camera mounted on the rearview mirror to sense if the vehicle is drifting and issues a warning and a vibration to the steering wheel.

“While the 2013 Fusion is still under wraps (they’ve done a remarkably good job of keeping it a secret), Ford is letting loose some of the details,” Tony Pimko blogged about the announcement on “Ford is a master at this kind of press release marketing; they dribble out information bit-by-bit.”

Pimko indicates that LKS is just one app among others that represent the “democratization of technology, evidenced by the widespread availability of technologies once only available on luxury cars.”

Indeed, in reporting last month about a mobile app that lets consumers do virtual test drives of the new Fusion, Marketing Daily’s Karl Greenberg wrote that the automaker is using some "app-titude" to create buzz around the forthcoming vehicle.

Greenberg also tells us that the Fusion will be the “Official Car of the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show,” which also kicks off with a press preview on Monday. Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally and CEA CEO Gary Shapiro will be showing off the vehicle in the Grand Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The camera on the Fusion’s Lane Keep System may be focused on the road already travelled but clearly Ford management has its eyes on the app-filled future.

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