Ford Out of Car Biz? 2019 Fusion Debuts in New York

AutoInformed.com on 2019 Ford Fusion

Look at the cycle plan, not past press releases for the moment.

Well it sure looks a car, one with a revised grille, fog lamps, trunk lid panel, and LED tail lamps. This new Ford Fusion about to go on public display at the New York International Auto Show this week and then production this August. Fusion is a rolling contradiction to Ford’s announcement last fall that it is vacating the car business and relocating scarce capital to becoming that emerging and rampant auto cliché – a mobility provider. Is this true? Well only partially. Cars remain a threatened species at Ford though. (See AutoInformed.com on Ford Dropping Car Business – Reallocating $7B in Capital and Ford Forms Smart Mobility Subsidiary)

What else to do when the stock is languishing  – or comatose – on Wall Street at ~$10-12 a share after eight straight years of expanding U.S. vehicle sales?

However, that’s still well short of achieving an 8% Automotive Operating Margin that is routinely obtained or surpassed by offshore automakers year in, year out. It gets worse when Ford Motor costs have grown as fast as revenue. It’s even grimmer still when capital spending has grown even faster. (GM on Flat Sales Reports Record 2017 EPS)

The Fusion, barring an intrusion of the random or repetitive quality issues that haunt the executive halls in Dearborn, has arguably one of the best combinations of standard, yes standard, driver-assist technologies among mass market brands from the original mass market automaker and  brand. These include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a blind spot information system, lane keeping (vibrates the steering wheel and can add extra steering wheel torque to help keep the car centered while the driver is texting), rear backup camera and auto high-beam lighting under the marketing name of Co-Pilot360.

Maybe Ford Motor should do a special EXIT Edition next year?

Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist includes voice-activated navigation and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. SYNC 3 with 8-inch LCD touch screen is now standard for Fusion SE and above models, while voice-activated touch screen navigation with pinch-to-zoom capability, plus SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link is standard for Fusion Hybrid SEL, Fusion Titanium and Fusion V6 Sport.

Be wary – infotainment systems are a frequently noted trouble spot in new or newly redesigned models. CR’s survey this year showed that owners of first-year models had twice as many complaints about in-car electronics than subsequient owners. (Consumer Reports: Infotainment, Transmissions Hurt Reliability. Detroit Three Quality Dismal)

Fusion Titanium and Fusion Hybrid customers – if there are any non-truck or non-crossover buyers remaining (US Car Sales Plummet in February. Trucks Gain Again) – will purchase more technologies, including adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and an advanced navigation system, which automatically accelerates and brakes to a full stop when traffic halts, while maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.

This is a surprising revision for a mid-size car that was revised two mere years ago. And the results – absent a road test – appear surprising as well in a U.S. segment that is roughly 2 million units a year – the industries 4th largest. Ford has an 11% share.

Seven substantially revised or all-new new vehicles made the 2018 Annual Top Picks list from Consumer Reports: Toyota Corolla and Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Bolt, Kia Optima, Ford F-150, BMW X3 and Audi A4. Three of CR’s 10 Top Picks were repeats from 2017 –  Chevrolet Impala, Subaru Forester and Toyota Highlander.

The Fusion to watch for – possibly way out front of the performance of Euro-brand sporty cars – is the V6 Sport model with standard all-wheel drive and 380 lb.-ft. of torque, the 325-horsepower – the most powerful car in its class.

The new Fusion Energi hybrid is projected to offer an EPA-estimated electric-only range of 25 miles, about 20% more than the current model. There is a new 9.0-kilowatt-hour air-cooled lithium-ion battery offering greater energy capacity with no change to the physical size of the battery pack.

Based on data generated by more than 23,000 MyFordMobile plug-in hybrid customers over the years, Ford estimates the 2019 Fusion Energi will potentially allow up to 80% of plug-in customers to drive their typical daily commute on electricity alone, with the support of both home and workplace charging, assuming the vehicle is fully charged daily at home and at work.

Even without workplace charging, Ford estimates approximately 48% of plug-in hybrid customers could potentially get to and from their jobs on electric power alone. This estimate is based on MyFordMobile data – not Facebook – collected from more than 19 million unique trips from 23,000 Ford battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Abridged Fusion Line

The allegedly simplified Ford Fusion Lineup:

Fusion S: Entry model now includes standard Ford Co-Pilot360 Protect, which combines automatic emergency braking with pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beams and rain-sensing wipers.

Fusion SE, Fusion Hybrid SE: Adding to the equipment on Fusion S, gasoline-powered Fusion SE comes standard with 1.5-liter EcoBoost, SYNC 3 with 8-inch LCD touch screen, SYNC Connect with Wi-Fi hotspot and dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control. Fusion Hybrid SE adds a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder hybrid engine with continuously variable transmission for smooth operation

Fusion SEL, Fusion Hybrid SEL: SEL replaces SE Luxury Package. It includes 10-way power driver’s seat with two memory settings, ActiveX seating surfaces, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, “intelligent access” with remote start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlamps and warm interior accents. Hybrid model adds voice-activated touch screen navigation with pinch-to-zoom capability, plus SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link

Fusion Titanium, Fusion Hybrid Titanium: Fusion Titanium includes standard heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, rear inflatable seat belts, 19-inch wheels, navigation system, moonroof and adaptive cruise control with stop and go

Fusion Energi Titanium: In addition to a near 20% projected increase in electric-only driving range, Fusion Energi now includes rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, voice-activated navigation, and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link

Fusion V6 Sport: With standard all-wheel drive and 380 lb.-ft. of torque, the 325-horsepower is fast and reminds me of the long-forgotten Contour SVT of two decades ago. The question is have other buyers forgotten Ford cars – all of them?

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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