Consumer Reports: Ford faces a big test with its remodeled Fusion

Article by Anita Panait, on August 9, 2012

Ford Motor Co. is out to prove that its vehicles are of high quality, starting with its new Fusion midsize sedan. However, the carmaker’s Ford brand dropped to 27th in J.D. Power & Associates' new-car quality survey published in June 2012 from fifth in 2010. The carmaker’s Lincoln luxury brand was still below average, ranking 18th.

The brands’ slide in the ranking was primarily to complaints about their touch-screen dashboard controls. To resolve the issues in the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch dashboard controls, the carmaker sent a software upgrade last March to around 377,000 customers. The upgrade, however, came in too late to affect the results of the J.D. Power & Associates' new-car quality survey.

The upgrade sought to make the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch dashboard controls have faster touch responses, simpler graphics, enhanced voice recognition and improved phone controls.

The 2013 Fusion, which comes with the needed upgrade, will be spearheading Ford’s quest to make its quality and technology as its main selling point.  Ford chief executive Alan Mulally has made technology a vital part of his turnaround plan, with some success achieved. Ford’s fuel-efficient and turbocharged engines and features like voice-activated phones have fascinated younger buyers.

David Champion, Consumer Reports magazine’s auto testing chief, had his turn in riding a pre-production version of the Fusion. He said that the 2013 Fusion looks "fabulous" and "is fun to drive." Champion, however, said that although the software upgrade in the MyFord Touch dashboard controls is already working, it was still slow and difficult to use. Champion said Chrysler Group has introduced strong new models, including the Grand Cherokee sport-utility vehicle, Dodge Durango crossover and Chrysler 300 sedan.

No matter what powertrain options customers choose -- gasoline, hybrid or plug-in hybrid – the new Ford Fusion is expected to lead its class in terms of fuel economy. This confirms Ford’s commitment to become the, or one of the leaders in the field of fuel efficiency on every model launched to the market.

The Ford Fusion’s leading role in the area of fuel efficiency – especially in the midsize car segment -- is thanks to the fact it offers a wide array of fuel-efficient powertrains. For instance, customers could choose from two EcoBoost four-cylinder engines, a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, a hybrid unit and plug-in hybrid powertrain. These engines are complemented by fuel-saving technologies like an automatic start-stop system; front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive system; and automatic and manual six-speed transmissions.

Two versions of the EcoBoost four-cylinder engines are available. One of them is a 1.6-liter EcoBoost that returns fuel economy figures of 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The more powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine delivers more performance on the road, as helped by six-speed SelectShift Automatic transmission with paddle shifts and all-wheel drive. This version of the Focus could be fitted with available 19-inch wheels as well as tires.

Meanwhile, the Fusion Hybrid has seen another evolution thanks to a new lithium-ion battery pack that is lighter yet more powerful than its nickel-metal hydride counterparts. Using the new lithium-ion battery pack allows the Fusion Hybrid to become faster when running in electric mode – from 47 mph to 62 mph.

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