There’s been plenty of speculation in recent months about the long-term fate of the Ford Fusion but, at least for now, it will remain an anchor of the automaker’s sedan line-up and get some major new technologies for 2019.
The emphasis will be on safety, the 2019 Fusion introducing Ford’s new Co-Pilot360 driver assistance suite, company officials revealed during a background session ahead of the midsize model’s official debut at the New York International Auto Show next week. They also confirmed a big increase in EV-mode range for the plug-in hybrid version of the Fusion.
“The 2019 Fusion will be the most technologically advanced Ford sedan ever,” said Corey Holter, Ford’s Car Group Marketing Manager, during a media briefing in Detroit on Tuesday.
With Co-Pilot360, Ford becomes the latest automaker to package together an assortment of advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, but unlike many rivals, the basic Co-Pilot platform will become standard issue on all 2019 Fusion models.
The package will include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind sport monitoring – often known as BLIS – lane keeping system, auto high-beam and rear backup camera. A more advanced, optional Co-Pilot360 Assist package adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, as well as a built-in navigation system.
Just adding BLIS as a standard feature should increase the appeal of the Fusion, suggested Holter, noting that the technology – which helps monitor traffic in a vehicle’s blind spots – is something that 96% of owners who have had on their current cars want again when it’s time to trade in. Even among those who haven’t yet owned a car with BLIS, nearly nine out of 10 motorists say they want the technology next time, according to Ford data.
The current Fusion won extensive kudos when it was launched for what was then seen as cutting-edge design. The 2019 model gets only some modest exterior tweaks, including new front and rear fascia, revised grilles, depending on the model, and new LED taillights.
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Under the hood, the Fusion SE and higher trim levels now get a standard 1.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine. The exceptions are the Itanium package, which features a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, along with optional all-wheel-drive, and the Fusion Sport with its 325 horsepower 2.7-liter EcoBoost. AWD is standard on the Sport model.
The fourth powertrain offered with the sedan is the gas-electric package driving the Fusion Energi. The big update here for 2019 is the 20% boost in energy density for the plug-in hybrid’s lithium-ion batteries. Without taking up any additional space, the pack jumps from 7.6 to 9.0 kilowatt-hours.
That’s enough to increase EV-mode range from 21 to 25 miles, Fusion platform chief Juan de Pena noted, adding that this is enough for nearly half of all commuters to make their daily run to and from work on battery power alone. And, if that’s not enough motivation, it boosts the federal tax credit the plug-in qualifies for from $4,000 to $4,600.
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While there might seem to be plenty of choices for a potential Fusion buyer to make, Ford’s Holter noted that the automaker has actually simplified things for 2019 by organizing options into a more manageable groups. He also promised that this translates into more features for less money.
Ford needs to find ways to enhance the appeal of its midsize mainstay. While it sold about 209,000 Fusions last year, it lags at a distant fourth in the critical market segment behind such powerhouse competitors as the all-new versions of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord launched for 2018 – the Honda sedan winning slew of awards including North American Car of the Year.
Compound that with the fact that midsize sedan sales have been sliding as former buyers shift to the booming utility vehicle market.
That has led to widespread speculation about whether Ford will retain the Fusion in its line-up. As TheDetroitBureau.com has reported, suppliers have been told to put plans for a 2020 makeover on hold. It is unclear if Ford will extend the run of the current model, drop Fusion or even shift production from the U.S. to an overseas plant, much as it will be doing with the smaller Focus model that will soon be shipped to the U.S. from a plant in China.
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