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2006 Ford Fusion

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http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0.../A01-304951.htm

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Ford has a bolder idea to fight imports: Fusion

Automaker puts itself out on a limb with a new design that says company is done playing it safe.

By Brett Clanton / The Detroit News

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LOS ANGELES -- For Ford Motor Co., the Fusion sedan rolling into showrooms this month is more than just another stab at regaining ground lost long ago to Asian rivals.


The midsize car represents a first step toward bolder carmaking and edgier design -- and a shift away from years of offend-no-one vehicles aimed safely at the middle of the market.

From the executive offices to the clay-scented design studios in Dearborn, Ford is abuzz with the notion that exciting, emotional car design is the compass that can lead it out of the woods.

"You can go to an extreme," said Phil Martens, Ford's chief of product development. "We won't go there. But we certainly want to have design that makes a statement."

While far from radical, the Fusion cuts a flashier profile than Fords of the past with its forward-leaning stance and chrome three-bar grille.

In a series of market tests earlier this year, Ford parked Fusions -- stripped of their blue-oval badges -- at busy areas in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York and drew an interesting response: People liked the car but were surprised to learn who built it.

At the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, more than 200 people looked at the car "and not one guessed it was a Ford," said Steve Lyons, Ford division president.

The response showed that Fusion is connecting with car buyers but that the Ford brand has drifted off their radar.

Clearly, the Fusion is the automaker's best chance in years to re-establish itself in a market it dominated in the 1980s and early 1990s with Taurus.

"We've got to get this one right," Lyons said in a presentation last week in Los Angeles. Company leaders call it Ford's most important car launch in 20 years. With SUV sales weakening and gas prices rising, the fuel-efficient sedan is hitting the market at the right time.

Ford badly needs a legitimate contender in the heart of the midsize car market, which represents about 2.5 million annual U.S. sales.

The Taurus is being slowly euthanized in rental car fleets. And Ford discontinued the smaller Contour in 2001. The larger Five Hundred, launched last fall, was criticized for being dull and an example of the play-it-safe thinking that has turned off buyers.

"Overall, the car has a profoundly geriatric feeling about it, like it was built with a swollen prostate," wrote The Los Angeles Times in a review last year of the Mercury Montego, a twin of the Five Hundred.

About the same time, Chrysler became the toast of Detroit for taking a chance with its boldly designed Chrysler 300 sedan.

After the drubbing it took over the Five Hundred, Ford determined the Fusion would be the beginning a new design era.

"What we didn't have was a DNA that we really thought would be the future of Ford," Martens said.

In contrast to the development of the Five Hundred, which found designers struggling around a list of engineering mandates, Fusion designers were given more power to drive the process.

That approach is now being taken on all Ford vehicle programs. Ford President Jim Padilla and CEO Bill Ford regularly drop by studios to check the progress on future models and chat with designers.

"We feel very confident," said Peter Horbury, Ford's North American design chief. "We're recognized as one of the departments that can have a positive effect on the future."

If the Fusion is an indication of what's ahead, then Ford's fortunes may well improve, said Joseph Barker, an industry sales analyst at CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills. While the car's design is still "a bit conservative," it is a step forward for Ford, he said.

"It's a tough segment to crack and a tough segment to be successful in. But I think Fusion has the right stuff."

The Fusion, which rides on the same underbody as the sporty Mazda 6 midsize sedan and will have two sister vehicles -- the Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr -- is based on the Ford 427 concept vehicle shown at the Detroit auto show in 2003.

Some models achieve up to 31 miles per gallon, and the car is priced between $18,000 and $22,000. Fusion's defining feature is its broad, horizontal chrome grille that other Ford cars will soon wear, including the Five Hundred when it is refreshed in early 2007.

With Fusion, Ford is targeting buyers between the ages of 25 and 39 years old, a highly influential demographic the automaker has missed out on by not having a credible midsize entry.

Ford also wants to attract customers it is losing to other brands -- such as the 20,000 Mustang owners who trade up for a midsize car but who have had nowhere to go at Ford. Marketing to NASCAR fans by racing the Fusion in the Nextel Cup racing circuit will be another line of attack, and the Internet will play a bigger role than it has in past vehicle launches.

Ford expects annual Fusion sales around 150,000 but doesn't think it will win back drivers of foreign cars overnight.

In one market test in Orange County, Calif., Ford lined up Fusion against segment leaders Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu. The majority chose the Fusion as the favorite. But when they learned the Fusion was a Ford, many switched back to Camry. The episode showed that Ford has a long way to go.

"We're not thinking we're going to take a lot of people up front who are buying Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords and Nissan Altimas and suddenly tomorrow they're going to go shopping at a Ford store," Lyons said.

There will be pressure on Fusion and other upcoming models to help lead a turnaround at Ford.

Ford posted a $907 million pre-tax loss in the second quarter at its North American auto business. Its U.S. market share has fallen below 18 percent this year, down from 26.4 percent a decade ago.

Having just completed a major downsizing, Ford plans to detail a new restructuring plan in October that could mean more job cuts and possible factory closures.

"We had a good plan at the end of 2001," said Padilla. "We executed it. We achieved everything that was in it and then some. But it wasn't good enough. ... So guess what? Now we have to respond again, and we're going to step up to it."

If the Fusion falls flat, Ford's troubles will only deepen. "A home run at least," said design chief Horbury. "That's what we need."

You can reach Brett Clanton at (313)
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Wow, Petra. I never noticed that before. And who says it's just the Asians that copy?
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the fusion's design is entirely safe, if you look at the side profile and interior its as safe as anything out there. But the new grille and iced taillights are a bit daring and so therefore the whole design is daring? i don't buy it. But it goes to show you, most folks only register a car by its headlights and ass end. what upsets me is the assholes who pick the fusion in a blnd test and then go back to the camry once they find out this car is a ford. what a bunch of pricks.
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No matter how hard I try, I can't get excited about a car with a Blue Oval on the hood.
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I never noticed it looked like a Prelude, that's interesting. It does look somewhat like a Cadillac too. I think the pricing on the Fusion is really going to help it out, and I think it should do pretty well, but the Aura should beat it if it's similarly priced, and at the price Ford is asking, it's not going to make them much money.
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oh c'mon face it this car is light years ahead of the malibu you just hate to admit its a ford Edited by regfootball
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oh c'mon face it this car is light years ahead of the malibu you just hate to admit its a ford

[post="11098"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

You know this from seeing pictures?
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It may be my built-in GM bias, but I just can't get excited about Ford's sedans. They can't seem to do an engaging, visually interesting sedan. The last one was the introduction of the original Taurus, but that was long time ago.
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You know this from seeing pictures?

[post="11101"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


yes actually

ford has more hp in both engines
5 and speed autos, manual option
the mazda 6 is more comfortable and the fusion is as large or larger
the mazda 6 drives very well
the ford looks way better inside and out. the malibu is one of the nastiest looking cars on the market right now.
the fusion is already been very highly praised in every press review its had, something that's never happened with the malibu.
fusions pricing is excellent out of the gate, no rebates

the SS malibu might have a chance of getting some accolades eventually, but honestly, its still unattractive, and its way overpriced for the lack of performance we'll see out of it. The G6 hasn't won great acceptance for its chassis behavior, so assuming the SS is tuned like a G6, it won't be winning much accolades. Edited by regfootball
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There should be very little reason to doubt the possible success of the Fusion. The only thing that could kill it is shitty marketing. Let me put it this way, forgetting GM as an alternative, since this car is meant to challenge the foreign market share, if you had to choose between the Fusion, Accord, or Camry...which would you pick? I really have not warmed up to the new style Accord. To me, it's just ugly. The yet-to-be-released new Camry is a hot looking number; however, the current one is far too soft and bland, in drive and style. I feel comfortable when I say that I would pick the Fusion based on what we already know about it and the 6 ... then, when put up against the Malibu, I'm still having a tough time picking against it.
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There should be very little reason to doubt the possible success of the Fusion.  The only thing that could kill it is shitty marketing.  Let me put it this way, forgetting GM as an alternative, since this car is meant to challenge the foreign market share, if you had to choose between the Fusion, Accord, or Camry...which would you pick?

I really have not warmed up to the new style Accord.  To me, it's just ugly.  The yet-to-be-released new Camry is a hot looking number; however, the current one is far too soft and bland, in drive and style.  I feel comfortable when I say that I would pick the Fusion based on what we already know about it and the 6 ... then, when put up against the Malibu, I'm still having a tough time picking against it.

[post="11243"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I'd still pick the Camry out of those three because it has more passenger and cargo room than Accord, Fusion, Altima, Passat, or Malibu. I've always liked the current generation Camry-it may not have the most personality-but it has more room and it has a nice feel to it, and I know I'll hear from the Toyota-bashers on here, but that's my take on it.
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The beginning of the article mentions '.....done playing it safe'.....exactly the opposite. This car is all about playing it safe.
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so far ford's marketing effort on this car has been very good. and hip. folks want to be HIP. the current camry feels like it feels to wear 3 or 4 'raincoats'.
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fusions pricing is excellent out of the gate, no rebates


[post="11240"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


The Mazda6 is $5000 less and doesn't have that nasty front grill and headlight thing going on. The rest of the car is quite handsome.
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The Mazda6 is $5000 less and doesn't have that nasty front grill and headlight thing going on.  The rest of the car is quite handsome.

[post="11430"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


mazda6 has huge rebates, otherwise, its not cheaper. like equipped, i think the fusion is cheaper in terms of MSRP. factor in rebates and equipment levels and its likely about the same overall. i know base M6's are dirt cheap, but spring for the v6 and bose/lthr and the M6 quickly becomes less of an obvious advantage.

the fusion comes out of the gate with 1000 bucks on the hood too.
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Fair points. Both Camry and Accord charge a fortune for the V6 as well as Mazda. There was a year or two were Malibu tried to sell on the free v6 idea. I thought it was a great idea, obviously the majority of coustomers didn't.
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Fair points.  Both Camry and Accord charge a fortune for the V6 as well as Mazda.  There was a year or two were Malibu tried to sell on the free v6 idea.  I thought it was a great idea, obviously the majority of coustomers didn't.

[post="11503"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

well, if the Malibu's v6 wasn't pushrods maybe it would be a different story........
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The beginning of the article mentions '.....done playing it safe'.....exactly the opposite.  This car is all about playing it safe.

[post="11296"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Just like that "unique" 2006 Impala, or is it a Kia? And the unforgettable LaCrosse. The Fusion makes the W body cars look like 1988 cars, oh wait, they ARE 1988 cars, guissed up. :lol:
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Just like that "unique" 2006 Impala, or is it a Kia? And the unforgettable LaCrosse.  The Fusion makes the W body cars look like 1988 cars, oh wait, they ARE 1988 cars, guissed up.  :lol:

[post="11622"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


So, your response to a critique of the Fusion as bland is merely to mock GM cars? Enlightened. Much like Blueovalman once acted here.
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If cats around here can dis Asian cars to death in an uninformed manner, he has every right to spit on GM and get away with it.....
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If cats around here can dis Asian cars to death in an uninformed manner, he has every right to spit on GM and get away with it.....

[post="11665"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


The difference being this is a GM enthusiast site. And even if your assertion were true, I would like to add that two wrongs don't make a right.
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Oh well, I just look at it as a different point of view. I like the Fusion, and have seen a few around here. I also plan on driving one, as I have been it a 6 and recently, and loved it. If it drives as well/better than the 6, it will do just fine...
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The difference being this is a GM enthusiast site. And even if your assertion were true, I would like to add that two wrongs don't make a right.

[post="11666"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

Aren't we GM's biggest fans and toughest critics?

I'm not here to give anyone crap, I'm just calling it like I see it (and up until a minute ago, figured it was supposed to go)....
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