The Truth About Cars » ford fusion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 20 Mar 2015 23:14:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ford fusion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Rental Review: 2014 Ford Fusion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/rental-review-2014-ford-fusion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/rental-review-2014-ford-fusion/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994586 Yes, I know. You’re reading yet another article on TTAC about the Ford Fusion. You’ll have to read yet another sentence about the Aston Martin-style front grille, a paragraph about the EcoBoost engine, a passage about what the interior space is like, another sentence about the Aston martin-style front grille, and a remark on how […]

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Yes, I know. You’re reading yet another article on TTAC about the Ford Fusion. You’ll have to read yet another sentence about the Aston Martin-style front grille, a paragraph about the EcoBoost engine, a passage about what the interior space is like, another sentence about the Aston martin-style front grille, and a remark on how the good SYNC voice activation is. But this review isn’t going to be the usual road test you read in your local newspaper, auto magazines, and the usual automotive blogs.

It’s about another kind of Ford Fusion. It’s not going to be about the Hybrid version, or the Energi, or one with the powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It doesn’t have the wheels that thieves will steal from the car in your own driveway. It’s about your run-of-the-mill 1.6-liter EcoBoost Ford Fusion SE. Which has over 45,000 miles and is still serving as a rental car, meaning this truly is another kind of Ford Fusion.

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Let’s start with the interior, as most reviewers tend to begin with the outside. The interior is a pleasant place (even after the tremendous amount of use), with black leather seats and some wood and silver-painted trim. All the touch points still felt fine. The power-adjustable driver’s seat had front and back lumbar support; though you couldn’t move the lumbar support up and down. Additionally, sitting in the back was comfortable and there was more than enough legroom, a welcome surprise coming from a Focus. As for the infotainment system, I don’t like the small LCD screen in the dashboard. It must be small to remind me my car doesn’t have the navigation option, but I’d rather have had the extra buttons and the digital screen. Even though I didn’t like the appearance of the infotainment system, the system was very intuitive and it was easy to tune the radio or change the audio settings.

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Storage space wasn’t an issue. It’s a good car for four people going on a weekend road trip. There was plenty of space underneath the front armrest and to put things in the center console. The trunk could fit three full-size suitcases with room for a backpack. As for the spare tire beneath, it’s a space-saver wheel, so be prepared to drive in the right lane slowly in the event of a flat tire.

The powertrain was the now-discontinued 1.6-liter EcoBoost that makes 182 horsepower. (Now it’s the 1.5-liter Ecoboost.) While I had the car, the check engine light was illuminated and the transmission seemed to lazily drop a gear whenever I pressed harder on the accelerator. If the transmission wasn’t shifted into S, I would describe the cars highway performance “lazy.” The handling and steering feel was very good for a front-drive car of the size and weight of the Fusion, even with the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels. This car also had a normal 6-speed automatic, so you don’t hear the sound of clutches attempting to engage like you would in an “automatic” Focus.

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Furthermore, the rental company activated the MyKey system, presumably to prevent me from driving 100 mph without my seatbelt fastened and with the radio turned to full-blast. However, unfortunately for those who wish to know the top speed my rental company set, I have no idea, since my driving was mainly local and there was traffic on the highway. That and I wanted to avoid a potentially awkward conversation at the rental counter if did found out I really did drive 100 mph without my seatbelt on with the radio turned to 11.

I have to include a paragraph about fuel economy, since it happens to be a major selling point of the car. It didn’t help that while I was watching an episode of New Girl on Netflix (on which Ford has an official product placement deal), one of the characters spent a good minute discussing how he cared about furl economy in his new Ford Fusion. The car computer told me it had received a little bit over 27 mpg overall over the life of the car. However, Ford advertised the fuel economy numbers as 23 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, which I found disappointing, but not surprising considering the acceleration habits of rental car drivers, which likely contributed to that low figure.

On the highway, this car was fairly comfortable and it absorbed some fairly nasty bumps, no doubt thanks to those 17-inch wheels. However, mine had a large problem with wind noise (it felt like one of the windows was slightly open, though everything was closed), and I couldn’t isolate where the wind noise was coming from. To ensure I wouldn’t hear that wind noise, I turned up the stereo louder than usual, which would’ve been fine if the speaker system was good, but it wasn’t. Visibility was very good, though it wish it would’ve been possible to sit up higher.

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My rental car company put the Fusion in the “full-size” class, which I thought was for cars like the Taurus and Impala, and I was really looking forward to either of those two. However, when I was getting the rental, I had a choice between the Fusion and the Kia Optima. I chose the Fusion since I wanted to see how one held up to abuse and hit the jackpot when the odometer showed at least 46,000 miles. As I’ve noted before, numerous publications have tested new Ford Fusions, but it’s nice to know how they hold up over time.

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It wouldn’t be a complete review of the Fusion without a discussion about the styling and a mention of the Aston Martin-style grille. I didn’t want to like it, but somehow, after looking at the photos, I don’t think the styling’s become dated, like what happened to the 2010 Hyundai Sonata after one model year. Despite the lower-end 17-inch wheels, I think it manages to look good. In ten years’ time, I think the Fusion’s looks still will be considered relatively modern.

Unlike the Focus, when I ran the VIN of this particular rental car, I didn’t come across any juicy tidbits of information, and the representative checking out the car to me didn’t volunteer anything either. So this car will probably come to rest on the lot of my local rental car company dealership in at least 5,000 miles’ time. The only somewhat intriguing thing I managed to come across was a document which indicated the Fusion might have been part of a “rent-to-own” program for rental cars. Meanwhile, I’m sure running the Carfax or Autocheck wouldn’t have turned up much, similar to my Focus experience.

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Ultimately, this is a great family car and I like it. I can’t envision the design of the Fusion going out of style very soon, and the steering feel is very good. The performance is fine, as long as you stick to the posted speed limit, but put your foot down any further and the fuel economy doesn’t get anywhere near the number you envisioned. After 45,000 miles as a rental car, this Fusion held up better and was more comfortable than expected, though you should still get an inspection if acquiring a Fusion with 45,000 miles, as the EcoBoost engine might not be cheap to fix if it hasn’t been properly maintained.

And please, if you do purchase a Fusion, please don’t say the name of that British automaker that the grille reminds you of. We’ve all heard enough.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He’s now scared of what the Ford MyKey system will reveal about his driving habits.

 

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Piston Slap: A Fusion of Malcontent? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-malcontent/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-malcontent/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:08:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988370   Casey writes: Dear Sajeev, I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently […]

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2006 FORD FUSION

(photo courtesy: autoopinion.blogspot.com/)

Casey writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently we (I) was tired of it. So I traded it in on a 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6. It’s a beautiful car, black on black, lots of power and nice ride. I paid $7,200 for it with 108,000 miles.

The problem is, only about 5 months into ownership and 4,000 miles later several issues have revealed themselves.

The power steering pump is going out, something is going on with the ABS where whenever they engage (only 2 times since we bought it) the brakes take hours to recover, the oil pressure light comes on at idle, and the heater is to be described as tepid, at best.

I only owe about $2,000 on the car and could easily trade it in. My wife refuses to drive it so she took over my 2013 Camry and now wants a Camry of her own (likely a 2007 or 2008 on our budget). So what should I do? Stick with the Fusion for a while and then trade it in? Trade it in now? Or spend the I don’t know $2,500 to fix all the issues and keep it for the long haul?

I Feel Like an Idiot,

Casey

Sajeev answers:

Wow, where to start?

Let’s say all those problems have minor fixes: flush out the crap from the heater core (or repair/replace the blend door system), fix the leak in the power steering (i.e. the pump is still fine), flush out the ABS pump/accumulator, and replace the failing oil pressure sender/switch?

What are the odds of those problems being that easy? Is it more likely that a new heater core (pull the dash to do that), a new ABS accumulator, and a new engine are in your future?

Probably not, I covered two extremes without mentioning the likely middle ground. But who cares when it’s gonna cost a ton in diagnosis/repair relative to the value of a 8-9 year old car? You’re aching for another (used) Camry, so make it happen. And get a PPI to make sure it isn’t a lemon like this Fusion.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Midsize Aston Fusion Is Ford’s Bright Car Light http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/fusion-still-fords-bright-car-light/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/fusion-still-fords-bright-car-light/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:27:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950257 Ford division car sales in the United States are down 4% in 2014. The automaker’s eight-nameplate passenger car lineup, including two Lincolns, is down 3.8% over the last ten months. Imagine how much worse it would be without the Fusion, sales of which have risen 6.2% to 263,431 units this year. After the Fusion broke […]

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Ford Fusion sales chartFord division car sales in the United States are down 4% in 2014. The automaker’s eight-nameplate passenger car lineup, including two Lincolns, is down 3.8% over the last ten months.

Imagine how much worse it would be without the Fusion, sales of which have risen 6.2% to 263,431 units this year. After the Fusion broke its 2011 sales record last year, 2014 is bound to be an improved year again, as the midsize Ford is on track to break through the 300K barrier for the first time ever. The last time a Ford car generated more than 300,000 U.S. sales in a single year was with the Taurus in 2005, the year the Fusion went on sale.

Exclude the Fusion from Ford’s passenger car sales equation and year-to-date car volume at the Ford brand would be down 9.9% in 2014.

C-Max sales have fallen 23% compared with ten-month results from 2013, the C-Max’s first full year on the market. The Fiesta is down 9.6% compared with 2013, the nameplate’s best year so far. Focus volume has fallen 6.8% this year after sliding 4.6% in 2013. The Taurus and Taurus Police Interceptor are down 20.4%, a loss of 14,179 units. The Mustang, in a very public replacement phase, is down just 2.6%.

An aging product lineup is a clear cause of disappointing results, as is Ford’s decreasing interest in boosting volume through fleet sales. The Fiesta, though refreshed, has been on sale since the end of 2010’s second-quarter, and there are newer, more spacious subcompacts available. The Focus has been facelifted for MY2015, but that will be its fourth model year. The Taurus competes in a dying segment, and there are far fresher faces there, as well. As for the Mustang, a genuine volume producer for the Blue Oval in America, a far more drastic decline would have been understandable.

Ford Fusion. Picture courtesy of netcarshow.comMeanwhile, over at Lincoln, MKS sales have tumbled 24.5% in 2014, the car’s seventh – and worst – year of availability. MKZ sales are up 9.7% this year but have decreased in each of the last five months, falling 13.8% since the beginning of June. Lincoln sales are up 9% during that five-month period thanks to extra sales from the new MKC, 8615 of which have been sold since going on sale in May.

Low volume from the majority of FoMoCo’s cars have been countered, though not completely counteracted, by the Fusion’s strength and by strong utility vehicle sales. (The Edge, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, Flex, MKC, MKT, MKX, and Navigator have combined for 620,759 year-to-date sales, up 2.9%, compared with 688,981 total Ford/Lincoln car sales.) The Fusion is America’s fourth-best-selling midsize car, and its share of the segment has grown from approximately 12.1% during the first ten months of 2013 to 12.8% in 2014.

Fusion volume has increased by 15,398 units in 2014, compared with 24,246 extra Accord sales 20,008 extra Camry sales, and 9176 extra Altima sales. Overall midsize sales are stagnant; Fusion volume is up 6.2%. It leads the fifth-ranked midsize car, Hyundai’s Sonata, by nearly 83,000 units.

Among Detroit brand cars, regardless of size, nothing sells as often as the Fusion. The Chevrolet Cruze comes closest, with 232,403 units so far this year, a 9.7% improvement.

As for the pleasure the Fusion brings the Ford brand, consider this: 36.5% of Ford brand car sales in the first ten months of 2013 were Fusions. That number has shot up to 40.3% in 2014. Over the last six months, Fusion volume has improved 13.3%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Want A Ford Fusion 6-Speed Manual? Too Late. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/want-a-ford-fusion-6-speed-manual-too-late/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/want-a-ford-fusion-6-speed-manual-too-late/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:37:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863457 Ford’s confusing strategy of pairing a 6-speed manual 1.6L Ecoboost and a 1.5L Ecoboost automatic on the Fusion just got a bit easier to understand. There’s only one choice now. Reports say that the three-pedal Fusion is now dead, with the 1.5L engine the sole option for the Fusion’s smaller Ecoboost trim levels. Given what must […]

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Ford’s confusing strategy of pairing a 6-speed manual 1.6L Ecoboost and a 1.5L Ecoboost automatic on the Fusion just got a bit easier to understand. There’s only one choice now.

Reports say that the three-pedal Fusion is now dead, with the 1.5L engine the sole option for the Fusion’s smaller Ecoboost trim levels. Given what must be an absurdly low take rate, this is hardly surprising.

Last year, Bark M managed to take one for what may be our first Reader Ride Review. It might be the only independent account you’ll ever see of this car.

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Editorial: Lots Of Boost, Not Much Eco http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/editorial-lots-of-boost-not-much-eco/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/editorial-lots-of-boost-not-much-eco/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 11:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845425   Just prior to Ford’s fuel economy ratings adjustment, I returned a brand new Fusion with a 1.5L Ecoboost engine. The last car I’ve driven with 1500 cc’s worth of displacement was my grandmother’s 2000 Civic, with its D-Series, single cam engine and 4-speed automatic. You would think that such a tiny engine would help […]

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Just prior to Ford’s fuel economy ratings adjustment, I returned a brand new Fusion with a 1.5L Ecoboost engine. The last car I’ve driven with 1500 cc’s worth of displacement was my grandmother’s 2000 Civic, with its D-Series, single cam engine and 4-speed automatic. You would think that such a tiny engine would help Ford’s mid-sizer deliver solid fuel economy, but the best I could do was a mere 21 mpg in mixed driving.

According to the EPA, the same Fusion gets 23 mpg in town and 36 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined – that’s about 25 percent better than I got. I’ve never had particularly good luck with the Ecoboost engines, whether it’s the 1.6L in the Escape or the 2.0L in the MKZ  in normal driving. My one good experience, in the utterly fantastic Fiesta ST, saw me return 40 mpg over a stretch of two lane highway at 60 mph. But who drives 60 mph on the highway, let alone in the Fiesta ST.

The Ecoboost engines are like the high school classmate who got infuriatingly good grades, but you always knew you were smarter than. They simply happened to be really good at standardized tests and repeating back information, even if their critical thinking and “streets smarts” were lacking.

So, these engines perform really well on the EPA fuel economy tests, but utterly fall apart in the real world. Driving them as one normally would means dipping into the boost of the turbo engine, and subsequently consuming lots of fuel. For an engine that’s been sold on the age-old promise of “the power of [insert large engine here], the fuel economy of [insert smaller cylinder count here]”, that’s not good at all. Especially when you are publicly forced to revise your own fuel economy estimates.

As fun as it may be for certain parties to mock Ford’s “Egoboost” engines, turbocharging is going to become near ubiquitous. The requirements for economies of scale dictate that global engine programs are the way to go, so no more separate powertrains for different markets. Engines must now meet European and Asian environmental regulations, while delivering power levels acceptable to consumers in America and China. And they must be able to motivate everything from an A-segment hatchback to a large crossover. Guess what fits the bill? A family of modular, turbocharged engines like Ford, BMW, General Motors, Honda and countless other OEMs have planned for the near future.

The big problem is not the engines themselves, but the flawed fuel economy tests that bear little relation to reality. These new technologies are then sold on the results of these tests, and the magic numbers never materialize. In some applications, like the Taurus/Flex/MKS/MKT and the ST cars, you at least get the feeling of “big power/torque” to make up with the so-so fuel economy. In the Fusion/Escape 2.0T cars, you get decent power, but fuel consumption is far below what one expects in vehicles of similar size.

In the newest 1.5L, you get neither. Like Jack said about the 1.6L its replacing, the 1.5L and 6-speed automatic “utterly, totally fails to impress.” The power isn’t there, but neither is the fuel economy. There’s a lot to recommend about the Fusion overall: it looks great, rides well, has a solid, well-built feel and they’ve finally fixed the once-awful MyFord Touch system. But I can’t seem to find a powertrain to works well. Perhaps I’ll have to rent a 2.5L base model. It might end up being the game changer for Ford’s mid-sizer.

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Ford’s Lightweight Gamechanger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fords-lightweight-gamechanger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fords-lightweight-gamechanger/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 15:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837105   In just a few hours, we’ll be picking up a brand new Ford Fusion with Ford’s new 1.5L Ecoboost engine. As you are well aware, the Fusion is a gamechanger. Especially the one pictured above, which loses one cylinder and 500 cc of displacement. The 1.0L Ecoboost three-pot is only part of an overall […]

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In just a few hours, we’ll be picking up a brand new Ford Fusion with Ford’s new 1.5L Ecoboost engine. As you are well aware, the Fusion is a gamechanger. Especially the one pictured above, which loses one cylinder and 500 cc of displacement.

The 1.0L Ecoboost three-pot is only part of an overall effort by Ford to produce an experimental lightweight car. The concept combines carbon fiber, aluminum, high strength steel, lightweight wheels and tires, specially treated gas and, of course, the aforementioned 1.0L engine, to bring weight down closer to 2,500 lbs, or about the same as a base model Fiesta.

One day, we’ll inevitably see mass produced cars made with aluminum, carbon fiber and other materials that we currently consider exotic. But how far will we go in decreasing cylinder counts? Some brands are already eliminating V6 engines from their mid-size offerings. Ford is set to offer a 1.0L version of the Fusion/Mondeo in Europe, but will we ever see a triple-powered mid-sizer here? Stranger things have happened, and the newest CAFE regulations are, you know, a game changer for the whole industry.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-ford-fusion-energi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-ford-fusion-energi/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829418 Forget the Ford GT. Pay no attention to all the Shelby or Roush branded Mustangs. This car, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi, is the true halo car for Ford. Homages to the 1960s are easy. People are willing to pay extra for an enormous engine, outrageous styling and instrumented-test bragging rights. On the other hand, […]

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Forget the Ford GT. Pay no attention to all the Shelby or Roush branded Mustangs. This car, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi, is the true halo car for Ford. Homages to the 1960s are easy. People are willing to pay extra for an enormous engine, outrageous styling and instrumented-test bragging rights. On the other hand, a midsize sedan propelled by technology with more computing power than all the slide rules in the Apollo program and sold for a price that’s less expensive than a year of tuition at many colleges is extremely hard.

The 2014 Fusion Energi is their moonshot.

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The second-generation Fusion was taken incredibly seriously by Ford, and it’s easy to tell. I think the success and critical acclaim of the first-generation Fusion surprised the company, and in developing the follow-up they wanted to grab the brass ring. All Fusions have a solid platform that’s got a bunch of high-strength steel in it. That makes it go down the road more solidly than any other midsizer. The competition feels limp by comparison. Jack covered this quite well on a Volkswagen-sponsored competitive drive.

The Fusion Energi mangles the English language because it sounds more impressive than saying “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.” That’s what the Fusion Energi is, though, a plug-in hybrid that delivers a few miles of electric-only driving before defaulting to tag-teaming with the on-board 2.0 liter Atkinson Cycle four cylinder. The engine itself puts up 141 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, unimpressive numbers that are the result of the “high-expansion” nature of the Atkinson cycle that trades performance for efficiency.

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The electric side gets going with a 117 hp (88kW) motor and 7.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, and its all corralled by a CVT that sucks less than you’d expect (in at least two senses of the word) because of the electric motor’s contribution to torque delivery.  As far as hybrid system integration – the thumps and shudders that happen as two different prime movers hand off propulsion duties, the Fusion Energi is exceptional. Maybe it’s just a trick of the quiet interior, but the Fusion Energi is encroaching on the leadership of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the long-established hybrid refinement champ, and you don’t have to suffer with a Camry to get it. Even the stop/start function is unobtrusive, a feature that can feel like grabbing hold of a paint mixer even in luxury cars.  With the Fusion Energi, Ford has done its homework and come up with a very well-behaved hybrid powertrain that sits in a jewel of a car.

One particularly nice touch with the Fusion Energi system is that you can select between full EV mode and hybrid mode. This was pretty handy for my commute, which starts off as highway for the first 20 miles and then spends the final 20 miles grinding through stop-and-go. I loved being able to conserve the battery’s charge until the slowdown. Fuel economy, observed at 37 MPG combined, was lower than the 108/92 MPGe EPA estimates would have you believe.

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The Fusion Energi takes 7 hours to charge on 120 volts and just a couple when connected to the  additionally-available  240 volt charger that Ford offers. Consider your parking situation to get the most out of this car. There is no garage at the Braithwaite homestead, so I lucked out weather-wise during the car’s stay. Otherwise, if you want to plug it in to charge during a rainstorm, you may be in for a zappy surprise. Without a garage, forget about the 220V charger.

The rigid structure was a big surprise to me. My experience with earlier Fusions had been largely positive – it’s always been a good car to drive – but you could see the seams, the areas of cost-savings. The second-gen Fusion is impressively well-crafted. Ford fussed over everything on this car and it shows. This is an American car that’s more finely burnished than the rest of the class, even the vaunted Honda Accord.

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Yes, My Ford Touch is here, but, surprisingly, it didn’t get much in the way. Maybe I’m more used to it now, or maybe Ford’s upgrades have made it less hateful. It’s still complex, but I had more issues with the capacitive touch buttons on the center stack than I did with anything driven by the touchscreen. Not having buttons makes the designers happy, perhaps, but it makes drivers crazy. Buttons that are harder to button make drivers distracted and therefore dangerous. Everything else in the interior is very well put together to the point where it would feel at home competing with the Lexus ES. That’s hyperbole, but careful finishing and high-quality assembly are evident everywhere. I was very impressed with how few corners were cut. Ford clearly invested time and effort in designing this car, and they’re not skimping on it in the build stage, either.

Just the door seals are interesting to examine, and they show attention to detail that’s evident throughout. The leather seats are very comfortable, though like every car writer, I’ll ask for more lateral support. The things you touch are nicely finished with low-gloss plastics and soft-touch surfaces. Design, from the stitching pattern on the seats to the classy sweep of the  dashboard and door panels, is premium in the interior of the Fusion. It feels luxurious.

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The carefully-tuned ride and handling feel more like a premium car from Der Vaterland than actual German competitors. Bumps are managed by the suspension to become non-events, underscored by the quiet interior. On the other hand, the suspension isn’t overly mushy at the altar of a smooth ride. Damping is excellent, so the wheels are under superb control. Hit a corner, and even with hybrid tires the Fusion is precise enough to be satisfying to even an enthusiast.

The Fusion Energi I drove was an SE trim, and your other choice is the loaded-to-the-gills Titanium. The Fusion Energi SE starts at $34,700, and mine carried options to drive the price up to $39,500. It’s hard to fathom what else the Titanium trim carries, given that there were features on this SE press car that I never, ever used (I can park very well myself, for example.) That said, the extra five grand went for things like the Driver Assist Package, Reverse Sensing System, Active Park Assist, navigation, rear-view camera and Intelligent Access with push-button starting.

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The way the Fusion stands out from the field is different depending on what car you’re comparing it to. A Camry feels aggressively built-to-a-price, the Accord suffers from horrible electronics for infotainment, The Sonata and Optima feel like they could use another round of final tuning and integration, and the Altima is off in its own little world where tinny-feeling cars with underwhelming dynamics are okay. Surprisingly, the Chevrolet Malibu, while not as engaging to drive, has been upgraded for 2014 to be the yin to the Fusion’s swaggering yang. When you’re not talking hybrids or plug-ins, the Fusion has the Mazda 6 to contend with. It’s a great-looking car that didn’t need to lift its styling cues from Aston Martin, and it’s more pleasing to drive without feeling flimsy. But we’re talking about the PHEV Fusion Energi, so there’s really no exact direct competitor.

The long and short of my time with the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi can be summed up thusly:

Costs modestly, looks expensive, feels expensive. The additional hybrid gear doesn’t mar the experience or alter it significantly. The trunk shrinks a little (and the seats don’t fold), so you some practicality. The fuel economy may not equal the confusing window sticker figures, but it’s one of the very few hybrids on the road that’s actually a delight to drive.

The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is great because it’s a hybrid, not in spite of it. That’s crazy hard to pull off.

 

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New Or Used : To Fleet? Or Not To Fleet? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-to-fleet-or-not-to-fleet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-to-fleet-or-not-to-fleet/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:10:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787681 Hi Steve, I really enjoy your articles.  Thank you. I have a question about fleet cars.  I was driving to a meeting in one of the fleet cars my employer has.  Nothing special, a late model Ford Fusion .  And I was thinking is this a better deal to buy when they get rid of […]

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Hi Steve,

I really enjoy your articles.  Thank you.

I have a question about fleet cars.  I was driving to a meeting in one of the fleet cars my employer has.  Nothing special, a late model Ford Fusion .  And I was thinking is this a better deal to buy when they get rid of it than another used car?  Then I realized that people who use a car that doesn’t belong to them trash it. So I thought, “No way!”

Then I realized that the same people who don’t take care of it, aren’t the same people who maintain it.  So are fleet cars a better deal then non fleet on the market? After giving them a good cleaning does it not matter one way or the other all other things being the same?

There is an age old saying that applies here, “It’s not the horse. It’s the rider.”

If you have ever seen a horse trained, or experienced a long scenic horseback ride with someone who had never been a horse before, you’ll get the gist of this saying real quick. Folks who use natural horsemanship techniques to train their horses are usually able to give their horses a better life. As it relates to cars, just change two words and you’ll have the core of what differentiates a good life for a used car from a bad one.

It’s not the car. It’s the driver.

The daily driver is going to have a far greater impact on the long-term quality and longevity of a vehicle than the manufacturer. So let me cut to the chase and ask you the two salient questions that apply to your particular situation.

Do you know who drove this vehicle? Or how they drove it?

If you don’t know, then either try to find out or accept the fact that there is more risk to the long-term ownership equation. The deal may offset those possible expenses.

What has always shocked me over the years is that most consumers are willing to throw thousands of dollars into the wind without first taking a car to have it independently inspected. I look at everything before I buy, as did my grandfather who came from a long line of successful cattle traders. My advice is to get that vehicle looked at by someone who has wiser eyes when it comes to cars. A fleet vehicle may have a good maintenance regimen but that doesn’t mean it will be a sound purchase.

 

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Cain’s Segments: Midsize Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/cains-segments-midsize-sedans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/cains-segments-midsize-sedans/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 04:01:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770353 By stealing the Toyota Camry’s best-selling midsize car crown, albeit likely on a temporary basis, the Nissan Altima ended February 2014 as America’s best-selling car overall. The Altima’s lead was also substantial enough last month to make the midsize Nissan America’s leading car year-to-date. It’s early. But the Altima’s trend is a good one. Year-over-year […]

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By stealing the Toyota Camry’s best-selling midsize car crown, albeit likely on a temporary basis, the Nissan Altima ended February 2014 as America’s best-selling car overall. The Altima’s lead was also substantial enough last month to make the midsize Nissan America’s leading car year-to-date.

It’s early. But the Altima’s trend is a good one. Year-over-year volume has increased in each of the last four months while rising nine times in the last eleven months. As Versa sales have fallen harshly – it’s still America’s leading subcompact – and the Sentra continues to play in the second tier of popular compacts, the Altima’s responsibility to produce big volume for the Nissan car lineup becomes more essential. Three out of every ten Nissans sold in the United States in February 2014 were Altimas.

By one standard of measurement, this means the Altima was far more important to Nissan than the Camry was to Toyota, where only 21% of the brand’s sales were midsize-car-derived. Camry volume decreased in February, the eighth such decline in the last year. To suggest there was some great gap between the Altima and camry in February would be to ignore the actual numbers. Per selling day, Toyota sold 1208 Camrys; Nissan sold 1285 Altimas.

Moreover, the Camry’s 7.3% drop was par for the midsize course in February. Segment-wide sales slid 6.3% – 6.6% if you discount the more premium-oriented Buick Regal and Volkswagen CC – as the auto industry as a whole levelled off and consumers flocked to entry-level crossovers. From the soon-to-disappear Dodge Avenger and the all-but-disappeared Mitsubishi Galant to high-volume players like the Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima, midsize cars were down.

Volkswagen Passat sales slid 7%. The Subaru Legacy, entering a replacement phase but anything but popular, was down 31%. Help from the Mazda 6 is of little consequence. Mazda’s 46% increase translated into just 1243 extra sales. Mazda sold one 6 for every two Dodge Avengers sold in America last month. Fleet or retail, those figures prove the lauded 6’s rarity.

According to Automotive News, car sales overall were down just under 6% in February. This isn’t a midsize anomaly. But these midsize cars certainly play a large role in the passenger car market, as they were collectively responsible for 32% of the cars sold in the U.S. last month.

At Nissan, even fretting minds must be put at ease by the Altima’s improvement, not just in terms of the nameplate’s U.S. volume but the increased market share. Through the first two months of 2014, Nissan owns 16% of the midsize market as we’ve configured it here, up from 13% during the equivalent period one year ago.

Auto
Feb.
2014
Feb.
2013
%
Change
2 mos.
2014
2 mos.
2013
%
Change
Buick Regal
2200 1474 + 49.3% 3634 2479 + 46.6%
Chevrolet Malibu
17,448 14,817 + 17.8% 29,270 30,640 - 4.5%
Chrysler 200
12,046 11,446 + 5.2% 22,958 20,292 + 13.1%
Dodge Avenger
8189 9980 - 17.9% 12,984 19,608 - 33.8%
Ford Fusion
23,898 27,875 - 14.3% 44,615 50,274 - 11.3%
Honda Accord
24,622 27,999 - 12.1% 45,226 51,923 - 12.9%
Hyundai Sonata
11,190 16,007 - 30.1% 21,005 29,254 - 28.2%
Kia Optima
11,226 13,195 - 14.9% 21,205 24,447 - 13.3%
Mazda 6
3945 2702 + 46.0% 7117 4849 + 46.8%
Mitsubishi Galant
25 209 - 88.0% 42 433 - 90.3%
Nissan Altima
30,849 27,725 + 11.3% 53,364 49,189 + 8.5%
Subaru Legacy
2575 3745 - 31.2% 5310 6929 - 23.4%
Suzuki Kizashi
446 - 100% 732 - 100%
Toyota Camry
28,998 31,270 - 7.3% 52,330 63,167 - 17.2%
Volkswagen Passat
6997 7532 - 7.1% 13,233 16,388 - 19.3%
Volkswagen CC
964 1123 - 14.2% 1845 2315 - 20.3%
Total
185,172
197,545 - 6.3% 334,138 372,919 - 10.4%

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QOTD: Your Automotive Predictions For 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/qotd-your-automotive-predictions-for-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/qotd-your-automotive-predictions-for-2014/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691474 Two years ago, I sat here pontificating about the 2012 Ford Fusion and its potential to be a “game changer” in the mid-size sedan market. Without any kind of concrete claim, it’s difficult for me to gloat about the accuracy of my claim, or for you, the B&B, to mock me for my over-exuberance (ok, […]

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Two years ago, I sat here pontificating about the 2012 Ford Fusion and its potential to be a “game changer” in the mid-size sedan market. Without any kind of concrete claim, it’s difficult for me to gloat about the accuracy of my claim, or for you, the B&B, to mock me for my over-exuberance (ok, it’s not). But this year, I’ve got something better: a prediction market of sorts, for the automotive industry. And it’s open to everyone.

-Jeep will sell about 125,000 units of the Cherokee in 2014, it’s first full year of sales. The Cherokee is too polarizing, and upper trim models get expensive. Toldeo is currently building 220,000 Wranglers per year for global consumption, with 141,000 of those sold in the US, where dealers can’t seem to keep them on the lots. They want to do another 250,000 units globally for the Cherokee, but I’m not sure they can sustain the current pace of 10,000 units a month, which I ascribe mostly to pent-up demand.

-Cherokee will be outsold by the 2014 Nissan Rogue, which is sufficiently bland enough to appeal to crossover buyers, while Nissan’s substantial dealer network, neutral brand image and ability to both crank Rogues out at Smyrna and finance practically anyone will help give it the edge. The CR-V and Escape will remain on top.

-The full-size segment will continue to decline, as crossovers eat away at this segment and every other passenger car segment in North America. Ford will not replace the Taurus with a next-generation, as sales of both the Explorer and its Police Interceptor version make such a car redundant.

-Small crossovers will continue to be all the rage in Europe, and one of the few growth spots in a flaccid new car market. Hyundai will launch its entrant in 2014.

-The shine will wear off of the Cadillac ATS, now that Cadillac PR isn’t paying attention, and the CTS V-Sport is basking in the warm glow of the hometown hype machine. Like the Camaro before it, the enthusiast press will cease its hyperbolic praise of the smallest Cadillac and call it for what it is: a competent, but not fully baked alternative to the Germans and Lexus.

BONUS: The mainstream automotive media (the big four buff books and enthusiast-oriented online publications) will continue to place themselves and their own tastes ahead of providing value to their readers. The Ford Explorer, which was criticized for abandoning its body-on-frame construction and becoming a “boring crossover”, is on track to have its best year since 2006, and as of the end of November, was America’s best-selling large SUV, proving an example of how out-of-touch the average buffet-circuit-and-diesel-wagon-lover is with the rest of the world.

If you have any, list them below. And come January 1, 2015, feel free to mock me mercilessly for the ones I get wrong. We can review my winners and losers – and yours as well.

 

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Ford to Idle Fusion Assembly at Flat Rock Plant for One Week in December to Control Inventory. Camry Incentives Blamed. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/ford-to-idle-fusion-assembly-at-flat-rock-plant-for-one-week-in-december-to-control-inventory-camry-incentives-blamed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/ford-to-idle-fusion-assembly-at-flat-rock-plant-for-one-week-in-december-to-control-inventory-camry-incentives-blamed/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 05:50:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=665394 In August, Ford Motor Company started production of their mid-sized Fusion sedan at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant, supplementing production in Mexico to keep up with demand.   That demand has apparently been met now that Ford has confirmed that Fusion production at the Flat Rock facility will be idled for about a week […]

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In August, Ford Motor Company started production of their mid-sized Fusion sedan at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant, supplementing production in Mexico to keep up with demand.

 

That demand has apparently been met now that Ford has confirmed that Fusion production at the Flat Rock facility will be idled for about a week next month “as we continue to match production with demand” for the Fusion. Also idled for the same duration will the the Michigan Assembly plant which builds the Focus and C-Max. Ford executives attribute higher than desirable Fusion inventories to more aggressive incentives offered by Toyota on the Camry. Toyota’s average incentives increased 8% in October from a year earlier.

Fusion inventories climbed to an 88 day supply at the beginning of November from an almost ideal 65 days supply a month earlier, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Ford employees posting on BlueOvalNews.com say that they’ve heard that the Flat Rock plant could be idled for an additional four weeks during the first quarter of 2014.

 

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Bark’s Bites: The Car You Want to Buy Used in Three Years (And The Man Who Had the Courage to Buy it New) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/barks-bites-the-car-you-want-to-buy-used-in-three-years-and-the-man-who-had-the-courage-to-buy-it-new/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/barks-bites-the-car-you-want-to-buy-used-in-three-years-and-the-man-who-had-the-courage-to-buy-it-new/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 14:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=636449 Meet Chris. Chris is a good friend of mine and a disgustingly handsome and successful young man. He’s 28 years old, has a mid six-figure job, lives in a swanky suburb of Boston, and dates a model who also happens to race motorcycles. Oh, and he also owns a 2013 Shelby GT500. Feel free to […]

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Meet Chris. Chris is a good friend of mine and a disgustingly handsome and successful young man. He’s 28 years old, has a mid six-figure job, lives in a swanky suburb of Boston, and dates a model who also happens to race motorcycles. Oh, and he also owns a 2013 Shelby GT500. Feel free to start hating him… now. Unfortunately, Chris is impossible to hate. He’s a genuinely good dude who comes from a long line of car guys. His family owned a Ford dealership for decades, and as a result, he’s a self-proclaimed Ford fan.

So when he received a promotion at work that caused him to start driving a lot more than he had previously, Chris did something sensible. He parked the GT500 in his garage and bought a Fusion on D-plan.

But it wasn’t just any Fusion.

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Chris picked me up from Onyx Hotel in Boston to head out to dinner on Tuesday night, in part to celebrate my thirty-somethingth birthday, and in part just to hang out. When he rolled up in his 2013 Titanium White Fusion SE on black 18″ factory rims, I was initially disappointed, as I had been counting on checking out the Shelby.

I started to say as much when I got into the passenger seat when I noticed something incredibly surprising in the center console.

“Hey, is this a manual six-speed?” I asked, incredulously.

“Yah, buddy!” Chris replied in his stereotypical Boston accent. “Check this out.”

Chris proceeded to roll down the windows, which I had been ready to protest due to the thirty-six degrees fahrenheit temperature. As he quickly accelerated towrd Cambridge, I heard it. Whoosh. Oh snap. Ecoboost.
image

Chris is an accomplished driver, with dozens of hours of track time in his Shelby. (The fourth one he’s owned.) He’s also done more than a couple Lemons races in the Northeast. He deftly maneuvered through traffic, demonstrating the lateral grip of the Fusion through the tunnels underneath the Chesapeake. The turbo 1.6 whined and hustled on command.

“Dude, how did you find this thing?” I laughed. “There’s not a dealer in the country that floorplans a manual Fusion SE with leather interior and black 18″ rims.”

“I ordered it. The dealer’s a buddy of mine. When I put the order in, he said, ‘You better f—ing buy this thing. I’ll never sell it.’ ”

“He was right, you know.” And as I said those words, I started to wonder…why?

We valeted the car at The Beat Hotel in Cambridge, a subterranean restaurant near Harvard Square. The food was fantastic, the music was at least a valiant effort to mimic Michael Buble, and the waitstaff was both attentive and far too attractive. All in all, a good night. As we left the restaurant, we waited on the curb for the valet to return Chris’ Fusion. Although the other attendants returned with vehicles such as an F30 3 Series, G coupes and the like, our attendant hopped out of the car and said to Chris, “This is an awesome car, bro.”

And you know what? He was right. So I had to ask.

“So how much did this thing run you?”

“Dude, I sat with the order sheet for like an hour. I picked out everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t. 1.6 Ecoboost, Six-speed, Leather, full infotainment, rims, etc. Altogether, it was around $29k.”

I dare say at that price, this Fusion is, indeed, a game-changer. Or at least, it should be.

But unfortunately, there aren’t enough Chrises out there. Enthusiasts always talk about wanting a manual transmission sedan that scoots, but here is one that anyone could walk into any Ford dealer in America and buy, and sales of them are rarer than steaks in Laredo. It’s hard to see why Ford would keep offering this car. When they inevitably remove it from the order sheet, I’ll shed a tear for it. It’s incredible.

When Chris dropped me back at the Onyx, I watched as the valets whistled in appreciation as it drove away. Valets at a luxury boutique hotel, who must see everything under the sun, mind you. I shared their appreciation.

Ironically, Chris is now getting a company car. Doubly ironic, it’s a Fusion. When he sells his unicorn of a car, I’ll be sure to tell all of you, so you can finally have that used manual transmission sedan you’ve been dreaming of. Problem is, if they stop making new ones, there won’t be any used ones to buy. And that will be a shame.
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Ford Gearing Up For 400,000 Fusions In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-gearing-up-for-400000-fusions-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-gearing-up-for-400000-fusions-in-2014/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=532233 With the Flat Rock assembly plant on the cusp of sending cars to dealerships, the Ford Fusion could potentially sell 300,000 units this year, becoming the first car nameplate from Ford to cross that mark in a decade. But to catch the best-selling Toyota Camry, Ford will have to have capacity for 400,000 units – […]

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With the Flat Rock assembly plant on the cusp of sending cars to dealerships, the Ford Fusion could potentially sell 300,000 units this year, becoming the first car nameplate from Ford to cross that mark in a decade. But to catch the best-selling Toyota Camry, Ford will have to have capacity for 400,000 units – something that could happen as early as 2014.

With plants in Hermosillo, Mexico and Flat Rock running at full capacity, Ford will apparently have the capacity to take the sales crown from the Toyota Camry. This year, Ford will have to set its sights lower, with one Kelly Blue Book analyst telling The Detroit News is “definitely attainable”.

The mid-size segment is undoubtedly America’s most competitive, with the Camry and Fusion facing competition from the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu as well. While the Camry has a comfortable lead on the second place Honda Accord (and will almost certainly cross the 300,000 unit once September’s sales figures are released), Toyota executives have taken drastic measures to ensure the Camry hangs on to its crown.

Ironically, some observers fear that by shooting for 400,000 units, Ford would see its profits on the model reduced as the average transaction price falls – something that has dogged the Camry this year. But if the Fusion did become America’s best-seller it would be a “game changer” of sorts, as the first car to claim the crown from the Camry in over a decade.

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Intramural Interloper: Ford Fusion SE 1.6 EcoBoost http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/intramural-interloper-ford-fusion-se-1-6-ecoboost/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/intramural-interloper-ford-fusion-se-1-6-ecoboost/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 16:47:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=509777 As is sometimes the case at press events, the VW Full Line Drive whence we gathered these Intramural League driving impressions had a few “competitive vehicles” included as well. The idea is that you drive the featured car back-to-back with the competitor. Having done that, you consider the merits of the respective vehicles, and you […]

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As is sometimes the case at press events, the VW Full Line Drive whence we gathered these Intramural League driving impressions had a few “competitive vehicles” included as well. The idea is that you drive the featured car back-to-back with the competitor. Having done that, you consider the merits of the respective vehicles, and you consider who paid for your hotel room, and you write the test accordingly. Volkswagen had a wide variety of “competitive vehicles” they could have chosen for the Passat and CC which, so far, have taken fourth and fifth place in our feature. The Malibu, the Accord, the Camry. The car they chose was a brand-new, $27,000, Fusion SE Ecoboost.

I’m not sure that was a good idea.


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Turns out the Fusion isn’t just a good reason not to buy a Lincoln MKZ; against the Passat/CC two-punch combo from Chattanooga and Emden it acquits itself remarkably well. Since VW paid for my hotel room, however, I’ll tell you what I didn’t like about said Fusion right away and perhaps the nice PR people will stop reading there and invite me back for next year. So here we go: the combination of the 1.6 Ecoboost and the GM/Ford combo six-speed torque-converter automatic completely, utterly, totally fails to impress. Had I taken the shortest drive loop available, which most of the journalists did, I think I might have come back with the sole impression that both VW big-sedan powerplants — the 1.8TSI and the 2.0T — bitch-slap the Fusion all the way to Hermosillo. There’s a noticeable difference between the 1.6 Ecoboost and the 1.8TSI in throttle response, motive power, and flexibility, and that difference is not in the Ford’s favor. That’s right: the Passat rocks the Fusion all the way through any street race you might care to run.

All VW fans should now stop reading the review and go read that thing we put up about the MRAP yesterday that has so many jimmies rustled at the moment. Thanks for stopping by! See you later today with the second-place finisher from the Intramurals!

IMG_3637 (Medium)

Are they gone? Let’s run another Fusion picture to throw them off.

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Okay. Coast is clear. So the Passat and CC are faster. That’s pretty much all they’ve got going for them. Over the same mountain drive loop I ran in the CC and Passat, the Fusion completely dominated the plus-size Volkswagens. Shall I count the ways?

#1: NVH. The Fusion is quieter than any Volkswagen save for the Phaeton. It practically oozes premium feel in much the same way that the CC does not. The same bumps that rattled the windows almost out of the CC’s frames were distant thuds in the Ford; the repaired pavement that sounded like a steel drum band in the Passat was not entirely discernible from behind the Fusion’s steering wheel. My audio notes tell me that the Ford’s stereo is better. Is it? Probably not, but the noise floor is so much lower in the Mex-American car it’s possible to actually enjoy said stereo more. It’s relaxing and pleasant to drive.

#2: Interior. The Fusion has the distinct look of a car that was engineered from the ground up in the twenty-first century. It’s stylish and made from interesting materials and it’s quite modern. Next to this, the CC looks ancient and the Passat looks dowdy. The seats are positively brilliant and they look the proverbial business as well. Once you internalize how the various Ford infotainment systems work, you’ll enjoy a much broader set of features than you would in the Volkswagens. Don’t forget the fact that the Fusion has two LCD screens in the instrument panel, multi-configurable and chock full of interesting information.

fusioin

To be fair, VW buyers aren’t interested in stuff like that and they never have been. The only “gimmick” standard-issue Volkswagens ever really had was the shift light on the dash. Hell, my Fox had one turn signal indicator in the instrument panel. It was a single exposed green LED. “Volkswagen,” I used to intone primly to my uncaring passengers, “assumes, perhaps alone in this industry, that its customer base is intelligent enough to know which direction of turn it has selected.” Admit it: there’s something cool about that. But there’s also something cheap about that. The Passat and CC feel cheap next to the Fusion. That’s okay. What’s not okay is:

#3: Dynamics. The Fusion has real brakes that really work and really inspire confidence, despite being the porky pig of this bunch. It has overall grip limits that slightly shade the CC and it communicates better through the wheel. It’s properly damped. You can hustle it and it consistently managed to post similar speeds between corners despite having less engine than the Passat by a fair amount. It feels more like a traditional German Autobahn car than the German cars here. If the Passat is the Dasher or Quantum reincarnate, with light steering and plenty of intrusion from the road everywhere you feel or hear, then the Fusion has the hefty arrogance of an E39 BMW, smothering the road and delivering accurate but low-amplitude information through the control surfaces. If you race a Passat for pink slips in a straight line, you’ll walk home. If, on the other hand, you bring it to a mountain over Tokyo to face the “Drift King” and DK is driving a Passat, chances are you’re going to have Sonny Chiba tell you that you’re allowed to stay in Tokyo and date the hot Eurasian chick.

So those are the three primary ways in which the Fusion is superior to the Passat and CC. Let’s check the sticker price:

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It’s more car for less money. Let me slip on my dusty old VW Fanboy Knit Cap and point out that FORD MAKES THE FUSION SOUTH OF THE BORDER IN A CONVERTED HENHOUSE WHILE THE CC IS ASSEMBLED BY FORMER ME262 STURMVOGEL PILOTS IN EMDEN TO STANDARDS OF CARE AND MATERIAL THAT FORD’S “EL POLLO LOCO” FACTORY WILL NEVER ACHIEVE. Also something about how the girls working on the line in Tennessee in their zipperless outfits will probably break your heart, given a chance. I’m being hyperbolic but there’s something to it: if you want a car assembled in Europe, it will cost you more money and you should be prepared to pay more money. Period. Ford saves money by assembling the car in a NAFTA wage-free, I mean, free-trade zone. With that said, if you’re careful when you shop you should be able to get a Flat Rock one now. Many of the parts, however, will still be sourced from places where “fifteen dollars an hour” isn’t a prospective McDonald’s wage but rather the combined take-home pay of a working family of four.

This is also the part of the review where our readers will think to themselves, “Yeah, Ford. Right. I read Consumer Reports, too.” Okay, but the competition here is from Volkswagen. Too bad they didn’t have a Trabant and a ’96 Range Rover at the event so we could put it all in true perspective. If you want to be more or less certain that your new car will still run fifteen years from now, you might not want to fall in love with any of the vehicles under discussion.

Still. Imagine you’ve set the time machine to 1994. Your local Ford dealer has the Tempo and the facelift Taurus for sale. After looking at both of them, you stop by the VW dealer to check out the Passat VR6. Just consider the difference there, in handling, dynamics, materials quality, sheer curb appeal, snob appeal. Now get out of the time machine and sit in both the Fusion and the Passat. Which one feels like the upscale, expensive, luxurious car? Which one has more desire attached to it?

Face it: Ford’s on the move, while VW sits still.

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As Fusion Builds Start at Flat Rock, Ford Considers More U.S. Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/as-fusion-builds-start-at-flat-rock-ford-considers-more-u-s-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/as-fusion-builds-start-at-flat-rock-ford-considers-more-u-s-production/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 19:13:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=503729 For the first time, yesterday Ford started assembling the midsize Fusion sedan in the United States as production began at their Flat Rock, Michigan facility. That move will add about 100,000 units a year to Fusion production, which was formerly only done in Hermosillo, Mexico. Ford is looking at options for expanding American capacity even […]

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For the first time, yesterday Ford started assembling the midsize Fusion sedan in the United States as production began at their Flat Rock, Michigan facility. That move will add about 100,000 units a year to Fusion production, which was formerly only done in Hermosillo, Mexico. Ford is looking at options for expanding American capacity even more, should demand grow, and a Ford executive says that the Flat Rock plant could produce yet another model in addition to the Mustangs and Fusions that are currently assembled there.

“We certainly have the flexibility for the future to do more,” Ford president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs told Reuters. “We’re trying to get our capacity set up to meet demand. With the growing demand for our trucks, growing demand for Fusion, other product lines, that’s what we’re focused on.”

Demand for the Fusion, up 13% from last year, outstripped Hermosillo’s supply, even though the car is currently selling at an average transaction price of about $2,300 more than the best selling car in its segment, the Toyota Camry.

“We could have sold more [Fusions] if we had more,” Hinrichs said. “We expect the sales momentum to stay here in the U.S. and around the world.”

The Flat Rock plant is flexible enough to handle another vehicle. The Mustang and Fusion currently built there are based on completely different platforms.

“The Mustang and the Fusion are two different platforms, so we’ll be introducing two right now, but we certainly have the flexibility for the future to do more,” Hinrichs said. “We could do a lot of different things.”

UAW officials also hinted that another vehicle could be built at Flat Rock. “I don’t think we’re done yet,” said Tony Bondy, chairman of the Flat Rock factory’s UAW Local 3000. “I’ll leave it at that.”

UAW workers at Flat Rock underwent an intensive production training program intended to eliminate quality control problems that plagued Fusion and Lincoln MKZ production startups at Hermosillo. “We’ve done an unprecedented level of training for the new workers here,” Hinrichs said at the Flat Rock plant.

Every one of the 1,400 workers hired to staff the added third shift at Flat Rock went through 40 hours of training that Ford says was more intensive than the training given prior to the launch of the Ford Escape at the Louisville assembly plant. Ford also says that lessons were learned from that launch and that of the MKZ. The new Escape was the subject of a number of recalls and the MKZ launch was hampered by supply and quality control issues.

Flat Rock workers are now said to be trained in a more realistic environment that includes 10 different training areas for different assembly operations. “We took actual conveyers in the factory and installed them over there so people are working on the car in position, just like they’re going to be working on the floor,” Flat Rock plant manager Tim Young said.

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Toyota To Keep Camry Prices Steady In Face Of Ford’s Increased Fusion Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/toyota-to-keep-camry-prices-steady-in-face-of-fords-increased-fusion-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/toyota-to-keep-camry-prices-steady-in-face-of-fords-increased-fusion-production/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:34:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501207 Toyota, which faces increased competition for its midsize Camry in the heart of the U.S. car market, says that it will try to hold the line on prices and incentives while still trying to keep bragging rights as the best selling car in America. At the same time, Ford is ramping up production of the […]

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Toyota, which faces increased competition for its midsize Camry in the heart of the U.S. car market, says that it will try to hold the line on prices and incentives while still trying to keep bragging rights as the best selling car in America. At the same time, Ford is ramping up production of the Fusion, which is in short supply, and will be trying to keep transaction prices high as it increases supply.

The Camry was outsold by the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima in March. Both of them are newer models than the Camry.Camry sales only rebounded when Toyota started offering incentives that were four time those offered by Honda on the Accord. Toyota insists that those incentives are not inordinate. “For incentives, we don’t think that our current level is necessarily high, but traditionally, we try not to be too dependent on them,” Nobuyori Kodaira, Toyota executive VP, told Bloomberg. “I can’t really comment on our future plans, but our plan for now is to stick to that as much as possible.” Besides incentives, to boost short term results Toyota can add content, like new technology features. Long term, Toyota has the option of speeding up the development cycle for the next generation Camry

In addition to competition from other Japanese brands, Toyota has watched all three U.S. based car companies gain market share in those companies’ home market. As other manufacturers offer truly competitive products and have significantly narrowed quality differences, Toyota can no longer rely on reflexive customer loyalty.

“It is true that rival carmakers have come out with very competitive models in the segment, and that competition in the U.S. midsize sedan segment is becoming fiercer,” said Kodaira. “What we need to do is to come out with even more competitive models.” In June, Camry inventories exceeded their usual levels by about half a month.

Kodaira declined to say whether Toyota will come out with a redesigned Camry to compete with refreshed products from Honda, Nissan and Ford.

Toyota expects to sell at least 400,000 Camrys in the U.S. this year. In July, incentives on the Camry averaged $2,581 per car compared to $627 for the Accord. Bill Fay, Toyota group VP for U.S. sales, echoed Kodaira’s remarks about incentives not being too high.

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Meanwhile, Ford is adding a shift of 1,400 workers at their Flat Rock Michigan plant so that facility can join Hermosillo, Mexico in building the Fusion. Flat Rock currently builds the Ford Mustang. That shift at Flat Rock will add about 100,000 Fusions to Ford’s annual capacity for their well-received midsizer. Ford now has the capacity to build about 450,000 Fusions a year, about equal to Honda’s capacity for building Accords in the U.S. and about 25,000 units shy of to Toyota’s U.S. capacity for the Camry. Without the additional capacity, there was no way Ford could hope to challenge Toyota or Honda for the best selling sedan in the States but Ford seems more focused on selling more of the profitable Fusion than winning bragging rights.

Another challenge Ford faces is trying to keep its transaction prices high as it increases supply, something that normally creates downward pressure on prices. Currently Fusions are selling for about $2,400 more than Camrys.

Analysts say that popularity of the Fusion means that Ford will not have to lower prices by much. “Ford has managed to be a volume player competitive with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord while still maintaining a far more competitive price point,” Kelley Blue Book’s Alec Gutierrez told Bloomberg. “You might see prices come down a few hundred dollars, but I don’t think they face any significant risk of serious price degradation. They’re going to hold their premium spot in the segment.”

Fusion sales are up 13% this year and the midsize Ford has taken about 25% out of Camry’s sales lead.

The average price that the Fusion has sold for this year through July went up 5.8 percent to $26,343, led only by Volkswagen’s Passat in the mid-size car segment, according to Kelley Blue Book. Fusions are selling at $1,176 more than the segment average and $2,378 more than Camrys.

Analysts attribute the Fusion’s success to a variety of factors including distinctive styling, fuel economy and a wide selection of conventional, hybrid and plug in hybrid drivetrains. Ford is even seeing sales growth in California, a market that hasn’t been very receptive to domestic brands for years, with strong sales of the C-Max and Fusion hybrid. Ford car and light truck sales in the Golden State are up 18% for the first half of the year, compared to 2012, putting Ford in a virtual tie with Honda for market share there.

While Ford has a 40 day supply of Fusions nationally (a 60 day supply is considered normal), in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets the supply is down to 30 days.

It isn’t just the law of supply and demand that will mean lower prices on Fusions as production grows. When Ford launched the Fusion, many of the early production models were highly optioned, with corresponding sticker prices. Now that lower content cars are a greater percentage of the mix, transaction prices should drop a bit.

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Ford Tries To Increase North American Capacity, Escape & Fusion in High Demand, Short Supply http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/ford-tries-to-increase-north-american-capacity-escape-fusion-in-high-demand-short-supply/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/ford-tries-to-increase-north-american-capacity-escape-fusion-in-high-demand-short-supply/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498558 After adding 600,000 units to its North American capacity within the past two years, Ford is trying to find ways to increase output of the Escape crossover and midsize Fusion, both of which currently have about 40 days supply. The Fusion is particularly in short supply on the east and west coasts, a good sign […]

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After adding 600,000 units to its North American capacity within the past two years, Ford is trying to find ways to increase output of the Escape crossover and midsize Fusion, both of which currently have about 40 days supply. The Fusion is particularly in short supply on the east and west coasts, a good sign for any domestic automaker these days. A 60 day supply of cars in inventory is generally considered normal for the U.S. auto industry. Automotive News is reporting that at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars, held in Traverse City, Michigan, Ford VP for North America manufacturing, Jim Tetreault, said, “We’re still looking at how we get more out of every plant, and that’ll be a focus for as long as the demand is as strong as it is.”

One option is adding a third shift at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, which currently builds Mustangs and a second shift is being added to start building Fusions. Adding capacity at the Louisville Assembly Plant, where the Escape is put together, will be done by speeding up the assembly line. Tetreault said that increasing speed by 2 Escapes an hour would give the automaker another 240 vehicles a week to sell. He said that squeezing out even one more car or light truck an hour would be worthwhile.

So far, Ford has used a combination of adding shifts and increased use of relief and floating employees to keep the lines humming at its 30 plants in North America. The automaker also has twice weekly meetings including manufacturing and purchasing managers along with “supplier technical assistance leaders” to look for capacity improvements. Another area of improvement has been through better equipment maintenance. Ford says that production was improved by 3% just by “better up-time” and new equipment purchases. Attention to ergonomics on the assembly line is also expected to yield greater productivity. Employee health, both reducing on the job injuries and identifying employees at risk for chronic illnesses and providing them with health advice, is also seen as a means of improving capacity by reducing absenteeism.

Ford has been increasing its human resources, with 8,000 hourly and 3,000 salaried employees hired within the last 5 quarters. That leaves Ford with a current total of 82,300 workers in North America. Tetreault doubted that Ford will ever see the kind of employment levels it had before the recession, even with continued growth in the U.S. market.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Lincoln MKZ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/capsule-review-2013-lincoln-mkz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/capsule-review-2013-lincoln-mkz/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495478 “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford Anyone who aspires to review cars should give Mary Walton’s “Car: A Drama of the American Workplace” a careful examination. In 392 pages, Walton introduces us to the men and women who went through the gruelling task of designing, engineering and planning DN101, […]

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“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford

Anyone who aspires to review cars should give Mary Walton’s “Car: A Drama of the American Workplace” a careful examination. In 392 pages, Walton introduces us to the men and women who went through the gruelling task of designing, engineering and planning DN101, the second-generation Ford Taurus that was meant to dethrone the Toyota Camry once and for all from its spot as America’s favorite car. Only the hardest of hearts would fail to identify with the Ford staffers who spent billions of dollars and countless hours slaving away at a project that ultimately flopped in the marketplace. I know it gave me pause for a long time when it came time to review a car. I began to second guess whether it was right to harp on some poorly fitting trim or wonky steering feel or a carried-over powertrain. Surely, someone wanted to do better, but budget constraints, infighting or other external factors must have conspired to taint their platonic ideal of an automobile.

And then I spoke to someone who worked at Ford and told me the story of their mother’s car shopping experience. “I went to the Lincoln dealer with her to look at a new MKZ,” he told me. “I was there, wearing my Ford jacket, picking the car apart on the showroom floor, cussing and spitting tobacco into a cup. There was flash (extra plastic that hasn’t been filed away) on the fascia. The fit was poor. My mom ended up buying a Lexus.”

Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad anymore.

Forty seven thousand six hundred and sixty-five dollars. Take a second to visualize that. For most Americans, that is a lot of money. Quite possible their salary for the year. Maybe even a nice starter home on a rural route in an economically hard-hit part of the country.

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That’s also how much you’ll have to fork over, before any incentives or rebates, for this car. A car that is approaching $50,000, but has a fuel filler door that spontaneously pops open every morning and hangs like a limp appendage.

I did my best to overlook the glaring quality issue that was staring me right in the face at 6 AM every day, but even the supposed selling points of the MKZ ended up pissing me off even more. Take the full length retractable sunroof, something that Lincoln’s marketing guys can’t get enough of.

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When fully retracted, it effectively blocks off half of your rear window field of view, reducing the already poor rear visibility. The brochure picture (above) downplays this effect but believe me, the chunky section just below the glass panel combined with the dark tinted glass gives you a field of view worse than the first generation Chrysler 300’s windshield. Luckily, this is an option that can be avoided, but so much of Lincoln’s sales proposition as a premium car seems to be based on this feature. Lest we forget previous issues surrounding fit and finish with this feature.

So, that’s two major issues before we’ve even turned on the car. Starting it is a bit like using an ATM. You hit the starter button on the center stack, then hit Reverse to back out, then Drive to go forward. All of this is done via a column of push buttons, like an old Chrysler, except there’s a discernible lag with this system that you don’t find elsewhere. Having never really experienced it before, I found it a bit disconcerting. The MyLincoln Touch system was as crappy as ever, slow to respond and awkward to use thanks to its haptic controls. The boys at Allen Park ought to start looking very closely at UConnect, and how easy it is to make a touch screen system that actually works. The 2.0 Ecoboost engine returned a whopping 16 mpg in city driving, while the turbo took forever to spool up when the accelerator was pressed. So much for downsizing engines to achieve greater fuel economy.

Most cars seem to have one redeeming feature that saves them from the depths of vehicular Hades. This has none. It does nothing better than a Fusion, costs as much as a decently equipped 3-Series, and displays the kind of QC issues that one would have expected from a Korean auto maker a decade ago. In such a competitive marketplace, this is a disgrace. The Lincoln MKZ is one of the most poorly executed cars in recent memory. There is literally nothing redeeming about it. I can think of more reasons to avoid it than to buy it. And I’m not the only one – Lincoln had so little faith in this car, that they had to pump up early driving impressions by putting Ferrari 599 GTO-spec Michelin Pilot Super Sport  tires on the car. Even then, nobody was fooled.

Once upon a time, Lincoln stood for something. It was the car of choice for pimps and presidents and every high-profile individual in between, whether your name was Iceberg Slim or John F. Kennedy. The MKZ, however, is for the kind of person Iceberg Slim would deride as a “mark” or a “sucker” – someone too dumb or brand loyal to go buy anything else. In the words of Nino Brown, another famous pimp, Ford ought to “cancel this bitch” and get back to making something worthy of the brand.

Lincoln provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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Mid-Size Sedan Sales War: Toyota Wants To Retain Camry Lead By Any Means Necessary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/mid-size-sedan-sales-war-toyota-wants-to-retain-camry-lead-by-any-means-necessary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/mid-size-sedan-sales-war-toyota-wants-to-retain-camry-lead-by-any-means-necessary/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 17:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493893   This year’s sales race in the mid-size segment is one of the most competitive in recent memory. 5 of the top 10 best-selling cars in America are mid-sizers, and automakers are pulling out all the stops in an effort to unseat the Toyota Camry from its standing as America’s best-selling car. But Toyota isn’t […]

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Malcolm X by any means necessary

 

This year’s sales race in the mid-size segment is one of the most competitive in recent memory. 5 of the top 10 best-selling cars in America are mid-sizers, and automakers are pulling out all the stops in an effort to unseat the Toyota Camry from its standing as America’s best-selling car. But Toyota isn’t going down without a fight.

Sales figures as of May show the Camry in a decent lead over the #2 Honda Accord, ahead by nearly 16,000 units. But the Camry, which is down by 5.5 percent year-to-date, and incentive spending is nearly double that of the Accord, according to figures from TrueCar compiled by Automotive News.

At $2,750 per unit, Camry incentives are up by 38 percent, while the Accord’s $1400 incentive is down by 40 percent. The new model changeover explains the big drop in Accord spending, but the Camry’s incentives (like  0 percent financing for 60 months) is part of a broader plan that includes a big fleet sales program (current making up 20 percent of sales, and expected to level off to 15 percent, versus the Accord’s 1 percent figure) to help move metal. Toyota is gunning for 400,000 units in 2013 if necessary, a figure that may be hard to match production wise for other auto makers. Then again, one has to wonder how profitable the Camry will end up being when there’s such a relentless drive for volume at all costs.

Other challengers, like the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata, seem to be relying on high fleet sales, heavy incentives or a combination of both, to keep their numbers up. The Fusion’s numbers are particularly interesting. Despite sales being up nearly 22 percent year-to-date and Ford making noise about capacity issues, fleet numbers and incentive spending remains relatively high. Ford is spending about $2,300 per car, while fleet mix runs at 34 percent.

Even the Chevrolet Malibu, regarded as the dog of the segment, has a 39 percent fleet mix, despite conventional wisdom holding that GM is merely dumping these cars on daily rental fleets as a means of moving them off the lot. Still, Malibu sales are down 18.9 percent so far, and it will be interesting to see how things progress as sales of the refreshed model loom ever closer.

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Dealer May Sell For Less http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/dealer-may-sell-for-less/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/dealer-may-sell-for-less/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 11:30:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489880 The last week or two, I’ve been getting the Toronto Sun free of charge. The Sun, as it’s known, could be compared to, say, the New York Post, but it’s really more in the vein of a British tabloid paper. Like the Post, the front page always has some sensationalized headline, and it’s often looked down […]

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The last week or two, I’ve been getting the Toronto Sun free of charge. The Sun, as it’s known, could be compared to, say, the New York Post, but it’s really more in the vein of a British tabloid paper. Like the Post, the front page always has some sensationalized headline, and it’s often looked down upon as the newspaper of the uneducated middle class, but if you want to know what’s really going on in Toronto, especially our farcical municipal politics, The Sun cannot be beat.

While its competitors have ads for local Aston Martin, Bentley and Land Rover dealers, the Sun seems to have never-ending full-page ads for local domestic car dealerships, which seem to be perpetually wrapping up some kind of blowout sale that brings a whole new meaning to the term “dealer may sell for less”.

Having never picked up The Sun prior to getting it delivered, I was unaware that you could get such a good deal on a new car. But every day, there are 2013 Fusions, Escapes, Journeys, Grand Caravans and even full-size trucks going for utterly unbelievable prices. How about

In some cases, like the Journey and the 200, you are getting some old tech, like 2.4L engines and 4-speed automatics. I don’t think I’d really want to drive a minivan at this stage in my life, but the Caravan at 17,995 is an unbeatable value – and the step up to a model with Stow N Go seats (which I’d imagine are a must have when kids and all their associated cargo are part of the equation) only brings the price up to just under $22,000.

The fact that a Dart 2.0L costs more than a Fusion or an Escape strikes me as absurd. I don’t know how much of it is manufacturer cash on the hood or a price war among dealers. One dealer principal I spoke to told me that this is happening already. According to him, car dealerships are just convenient real estate plays for a number of wealthy Toronto residents, and they’re ok with selling cars at rock bottom prices. For consumers, there’s never been such an abundance of good deals out there.

 

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Car Design Driving Increased Car Sales? Spare Me http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/car-design-driving-increased-car-sales-spare-me/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/car-design-driving-increased-car-sales-spare-me/#comments Wed, 22 May 2013 12:30:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489158 A piece in Bloomberg that could hardly be seen as anything but relentless Detroit homerism puts forward the thesis that cutting-edge design is helping Detroit capture increasing market share in a white hot new car market. Per Bloomberg From the fires of Detroit’s descent into near-death, GM, Ford and Chrysler Group LLC have forged some of the […]

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A piece in Bloomberg that could hardly be seen as anything but relentless Detroit homerism puts forward the thesis that cutting-edge design is helping Detroit capture increasing market share in a white hot new car market. Per Bloomberg

From the fires of Detroit’s descent into near-death, GM, Ford and Chrysler Group LLC have forged some of the most distinctive designs since tail fins were soaring in the halcyon days of the postwar-era. Models such as GM’s Cadillac ATS sports sedan, Ford’s Fusion family car and Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee are turning heads and stoking sales.

On the strength of stylish new showroom offerings, GM, Ford and Chrysler all gained market share in the first quarter for the first time in 20 years. Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s staid standard-bearer, the Camry, has endured three months of declining sales as the automaker ceded U.S. share this year.

Rather than single out Detroit as the object of my scorn, I will say that we are far from a golden age of car design, and that sentiment transcends vehicle nationalities. Safety regulations, CAFE and a relentless focus on fuel economy have made most cars look utterly homogenous; nearly all sedans are some variation of the reverse teardrop shape, while crossovers, tall wagons and SUVs blend into the same amorphous two-box conformity. There are a few standouts these days and Detroit seems to have a disproportionate share of them; the Jeep Cherokee (which is distinctive if nothing else), the Jaguar F-Type, the Chrysler 300. The Ford Mustang will sadly be turned into another organic blob as the Blue Oval prepares it for sale in Europe and other world markets. The new Cadillac CTS is a wonderful execution of the concepts expressed in the ATS, but at a price point that’s off-limits to many of us. But by and large, it is getting harder and harder to tell one car from another.

Bloomberg pays particular attention to the Ford Fusion, the 4th best selling car as of April 2013. Even so it is still being beaten by three dull-looking Japanese cars; the Camry, Accord and Altima. Cadillac is resorting to incentives to push the ATS, a car that was already the subject of more Bloomberg  boosterism and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, despite being a lovely SUV in every single respect, is not exactly a ground breaking design. Hell, the consistently criticized Chevrolet Malibu is currently ranked tenth in the sales charts despite being panned by just about everybody who fancies themselves an armchair Adrian van Hooydonk.

There are many factors driving the growth of domestic auto sales; the need to replace an aging vehicle fleet, the expansion of subprime financing on the part of certain manufacturers and of course, the general competitiveness of a wide number of American cars. But to suggest that we are in a “Golden Age” of design not seen since the 1960s – a truly superlatve era for automotive design in America – is an absolute farce.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-2013-ford-fusion-se-1-6t/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-2013-ford-fusion-se-1-6t/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 12:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487592 According to the “Infinite Monkey Theorem”, if you lock three monkeys in a room with typewriters for infinity, eventually they will produce Hamlet. By the same measure, should you lock three engineers in a room for infinity, eventually they will produce the perfect car. Ford has seemingly absorbed this philosophy through their European division, however, […]

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According to the “Infinite Monkey Theorem”, if you lock three monkeys in a room with typewriters for infinity, eventually they will produce Hamlet. By the same measure, should you lock three engineers in a room for infinity, eventually they will produce the perfect car. Ford has seemingly absorbed this philosophy through their European division, however, as most theorems go, instead of a the perfect car, they produced “Aston Martin Rapide part Deux, the Budget Restrained Sequel”.

The previous generation Euro Ford Mondeo 2.2 TDCi Titanium set up my expectations for the latest Ford Fusion/Mondeo when I flogged it around the Nurburgring in about 9 minutes. Capable, comfortable, attractive, and well screwed together, the Mondeo was the best car to wear the wrong badge. So now comes an even better looking, and supposedly even more capable version to both shores of the Atlantic (according to Ford). So does the Budget Restrained Sequel to the Aston Martin Rapide (or BRSAMR according to my Blackhawk pilot mentor, Lt. Col Mary Bell) match or exceed the high precedent set forth by the engineers in Cologne, Germany? Well, ja und nein.

At first glance, the BRSAMR looks gorgeous. The designers nailed the classic flowing lines coupled with a gigantic grill in near perfect proportions. The grill and headlights assemblies are remarkably well integrated, especially next to the nearly similar sized Taurus: making the Big Bull Barge look dated. Euro creases down the side with a fastback rear complete the effect of looking fast while standing still. But look closer. Ford sweated the details: the creases merge and flow in incredibly complex ways that make nearly every angle interesting to look at, with surprise and delight to behold. For example, the center high-mounted brake light: instead of slapping it inside the rear glass, Ford designers and engineers made a relief in the glass, a unique element for the brakelight that merges into the roof.  It provides a slight spoiler effect for the rear. This is functional, cleans up the air flow, and looks interesting. If they put that much thought into the brake light, that speaks volumes to the rest of the car…hopefully…

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But it looks like an Aston Martin rip-off you say. Well…yes, and I welcome it. That’s like complaining Kiera Knightley looks too much like Natalie Portman. We need more beauty in this world, not more Malibus. Yet, the rear spoiler needs more elegant integration and when staring up close, the vertical front grill is massive. While it shall make a great zombie ram (take note Walking Dead producers, ditch Hyundai, you want the Fusion), I wonder how well pedestrians in crowded cities fare when the driver fails to look up while adjusting that MyFord Touch stereo.

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Inside, the Fusion delights and surprises almost as much as the outside. I said almost…the dash swoops between the front passengers hiding a cavernous storage hole and elevating the multimedia interface within easy reaching distance of the driver and passenger. But what’s this? Fake wood on the door panels and dash? FAKE WOOD?!? Or is it tortoiseshell a’la Chrysler Sebring circa 2008. I can’t quite tell as the panels are small, and the sparkly element fails like a Twilight vampire. All I could ascertain was it was plastic, and unwelcome. Brushed aluminum, or even silver plastic would have worked wonders here…but I’m paid to criticize, not design, so Ford guys…fix this.

The other ergonomic foible that drove me up batty was the location of the manual shift mode buttons. The Toyota Camry had well placed paddles behind the wheel. The BRSAMR has a rocker switch on the side of the shift lever placed at a bizarre angle, while made of not the stoutest feeling plastic ever. This ergonomic misstep left me awkwardly angling my wrist to the point I left the BRSAMR in ‘Sport,’ hoping the magic transmission angel’s controlled shift logic avoided behaviors of a demon spawn. It wasn’t successful, but managed to remain on the level of annoying street preacher and not Westboro Baptist Church. Yet when pushed, the transmission snapped off shifts and downshifted in corners like a wizard. I guess it likes torture and not sedation. BDSM followers take note.

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I shall now point out that the Fusion SE with the 1.6L turbo comes in manual. But I will only point it out, as the BRSAMR does not need it, nor will it add much to the enjoyment of the car. As I shall now explain, stay with me padawans.

The Fusion grips, steers and flows with aplomb… for such a large car. The steering feels a bit dead on center, but once past that, the wheel is accurate, well weighted, and precise. Turn into a corner, and the Fusion grips with minimal understeer, while giving decent feedback through the tiller. It’s possible to alter your line mid-corner without much drama, but then, the BRSAMR is heavy. You feel the suspension working overtime like a fat dude at Zumba. Body roll remains limited, but the alacrity in turn transition is just not there. The brakes stop, but the initial travel felt a bit vague as the big car tries to slow down. It makes commuting easier as you can lazily stomp on it with no finesse, but you are not driving a Focus, and you know it.

Ride quality remains good with firm, damped responses, although the optional larger wheels on my tester transmitted surface irregularities a bit more than I liked. Stick with the stock wheels. You aren’t fooling anyone that you are driving an expensive car, and if you are concerned about that, buy an old Lincoln for cheap, and get some 22’s… so you can indeed be ‘different’.

Overall, the Fusion was fun when pushed, but only just. Climbing back into my Audi A4 only compounded this impression. I wouldn’t mind trying to flog the Fusion, but I wouldn’t seek out any twisties just because I could.

Oh yeah, I forgot… the engine. Well, I heard something under the hood, but it was so smooth and quiet, I kinda forgot it was there. So did the acceleration curve. At 170bhp and minimal turbo lag, the engine proves adequate, if not mind blowing acceleration. It keeps the excitement down to levels where a Mormon girlfriend won’t leave you for the guy in the Camry, but won’t leave you trying to outgun the hipster in the diesel Golf.

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So what IS the Fusion/Mondeo/BRSAMR? It’s simply the best looking, and nearly the most capable mid/full-sized sedan on the market. The Accord drives better. The KIA/Hyundai twins do the same for a bit cheaper, and the Malibu provides subprime financing fodder. Yet I give the Fusion the nod, as it looks good, drives well for a commuter, and has little things that remind you that cars should have character. Now Ford, make an SHO version…but don’t call it the ‘Rapide’.

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Ford 1.5L Ecoboost Is Actually A Four Cylinder http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/ford-1-5l-ecoboost-is-actually-a-four-cylinder/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/ford-1-5l-ecoboost-is-actually-a-four-cylinder/#comments Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484456 Well, we were wrong. Turns out the 1.5L Ecoboost engine is a four-cylinder engine, but the intent remains the same. According to Reuters, it offers a way for Chinese buyers of the Ford Mondeo to get a tax break due to displacement. Meanwhile Automotive News reports that the 1.5L engine will be offered alongside the […]

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Well, we were wrong. Turns out the 1.5L Ecoboost engine is a four-cylinder engine, but the intent remains the same. According to Reuters, it offers a way for Chinese buyers of the Ford Mondeo to get a tax break due to displacement.

Meanwhile Automotive News reports that the 1.5L engine will be offered alongside the 1.6L engine in the 2014 Fusion, until the 1.6L is gradually phased out. Power numbers should be similar to the 1.6L, but the engine will be lighter, thanks to changes like an exhaust manifold integrated in the cylinder head. This should also result in better fuel economy compared to the 1.6L engine.

In Europe, there will still be a 1.0L 3-cylinder option, and Ford apparently still believes that more power and displacement can be wrung out of the three-cylinder engine. We’re just not going to get a taste of it – yet. In Europe, where CO2 levels still matter, the 1.0L and its 125 grams of CO2 per kilometer, are a welcome addition.

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Wild Ass Rumor Of The Day: Three-Cylinder Ford Fusion For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/wild-ass-rumor-of-the-day-three-cylinder-ford-fusion-for-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/wild-ass-rumor-of-the-day-three-cylinder-ford-fusion-for-north-america/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 15:17:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484123 A story making the rounds of various forums is that Ford will introduce a 1.5L version of the Ecoboost three-cylinder in the MY2014 Fusion. Yes, a three-cylinder might be offered in a North American family sedan. Ford offer’s the Fiesta’s 1.0L triple in European versions of the Fusion (dubbed the Mondeo), while the Chinese Mondeo […]

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A story making the rounds of various forums is that Ford will introduce a 1.5L version of the Ecoboost three-cylinder in the MY2014 Fusion. Yes, a three-cylinder might be offered in a North American family sedan.

Ford offer’s the Fiesta’s 1.0L triple in European versions of the Fusion (dubbed the Mondeo), while the Chinese Mondeo gets the 1.5L variant. This engine makes 177 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 177 lb-ft from 1,500-4,000 rpm. These numbers are nearly identical to the 1.6L Ecoboost 4-cylinder, but apparently, both engines will be kept around. The 1.5L will be offered with an automatic and stop-start, while the 1.6L will be only available with a stickshift. If the rumors are to be believed. We have put feelers out to our Ford contacts, but haven’t gotten any word back yet. Supposedly, the 1.5L engine will let Ford claim the fuel economy title back from the Nissan Altima and its 38 mpg highway rating.

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Mid-Size Sedan Sales Race: Camry, Accord, Altima And Fusion Dominate The Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/mid-size-sedan-sales-race-camry-accord-altima-and-fusion-dominate-the-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/mid-size-sedan-sales-race-camry-accord-altima-and-fusion-dominate-the-segment/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 12:55:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483951 The mid-size sedan sales race has become a close one over the first quarter of this year – while the Toyota Camry has established a healthy lead, the race for second through fourth place comes down to an 8,000 unit spread between the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the (game-changing) Ford Fusion. Despite leading the […]

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The mid-size sedan sales race has become a close one over the first quarter of this year – while the Toyota Camry has established a healthy lead, the race for second through fourth place comes down to an 8,000 unit spread between the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the (game-changing) Ford Fusion.

Despite leading the segment with 100,830 units sold in 2013, sales of the Camry were down 4 percent compared to 2012. Automotive News quotes Toyota’s Jim Lentz as saying that “not sure we can do much more than 400 [thousand] Camrys”, suggesting that the car may lose some market share – and possibly the title of America’s best-selling car.

While Toyota has been willing to put cash on the hood of the Camry to move units, it is facing some stiff competition. The Camry was outsold slightly by the Nissan Altima in March, while the second place Accord, with 88,427 units sold, is apparently the best selling mid-size sedan on a retail basis – if you believe Honda’s claims.

The third place Altima is down by about 10 percent versus Q1 2012 sales, with 86,952 units. Last year saw Nissan dealers aggressively pushing stock of the soon-to-be-replaced 2012 model out the door to make way for the new car. Meanwhile, the Ford Fusion has cracked the 80,000 unit mark itself, reporting a 26 percent gain over the same period.

To illustrate the gulf in sales between those four and the rest of the segment, one need only look at the numbers; the Chevrolet Malibu, with 49,179 units sold so far, is outsold by the Camry on a 2:1 basis, despite the Camry being one of the oldest cars in the segment and the Malibu being all-new. Ditto the Sonata, which is also one of the segment’s older vehicles and, according to Hyundai, limited by capacity constraints.

 

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