At first blush that may seem funny, but it’s true: bringing the new 2006 Ford Fusion sedan to market was the easy part of a long journey Ford hopes to make from sedan- selling afterthought to viable challenger. And while the engineers, designers, marketers and bean counters huddled in the hallways of Dearborn, Michigan would hardly characterize years of hard labor and millions of dollars spent as easy, it is – when compared to what’s next: Convincing the American masses that Ford now has what it has lacked for nigh-on 10 years or more – a serious, import-chomping mid-sized sedan.
Now for the hard part.
Consumers who get behind the wheel and take a test drive will discover a nice-driving, comfortable and stylish sedan in the 2006 Ford Fusion. But getting enough people to take that trip requires sweaty work, discipline and restraint. For the only way this car sustains itself and carves a place in the American ideal of a good sedan is through a test of time and equity, built over years spent pricing and marketing a car as a quality vehicle families can count on. To do that means to resist the intoxicating juice of discount marketing; to push away from the temptation of driving down perceived quality by boosting sales via rental fleets. It’s quite commendable to build a good car, stand back and put it out there for everyone to poke and prod; but to convince a skeptical public that, yes sir, the maker of Trucks and SUVs can make a good car with four doors that drives like a dream and gets good gas mileage is darn near a magic trick.
So let the magic begin, and let it be potent, straight and to the heart of what Americans want, for the strange and brutal truth remains untouched: If Ford can’t sell America on the Fusion, they may as well get out of the car business. The car is that good, potentially, and the company’s reputation is that bad, sullied as it is by years of oval design cues, heavy fleet sales, two-day old bakery store giveaways and a competitive field best described as tough and relentlessly good.
Fact is that Ford is doing the only thing they can do if they want a piece of the mid-sized sedan pie: Building their own import. From the euro-centric design, to an interior full of tight gaps and vault-like silence, to solid on-road manners, the Fusion has the makings of a champ. Yes, it’s slightly underpowered, and won’t offer as much by way of standard features as some of its competition. But the power is acceptable, and it offers what most people need – except standard side curtain airbags. All in all, it’s got a chance…here’s hoping the folks at Ford treat it like a champ and not just another slack-jawed tomato can.