Ford’s plan to kill the majority of cars in its lineup for the sake of SUVs includes ditching the slow-selling Fusion sedan. However, the nameplate will stay alive in a new ‘sport wagon’ being developed to challenge the likes of the Subaru Outback, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.
Bloomberg reports that the Fusion name will be used on a “high-roofed hatchback” based on the same underpinnings as the current saloon, meaning probably a jacked-up wagon model that will get a similar treatment with the Focus Active, which is the only version of the latest Focus to be offered in the US.
When Ford announced its plan to drop all cars from its range in order to focus on crossovers and trucks, many dealers were shocked by the news. Worried that customers might defect to rivals, dealers allegedly pressured Ford to keep the Fusion name around.
“They spent hundreds of millions of dollars for brand equity in that Fusion name — not $10 million or $20 million, but hundreds of millions,” said Rhett Ricart, one of Ford’s top dealers near Columbus, Ohio. “The smart thing is to play on that brand equity.”
Ford spokesman Mike Levine declined to comment on the next Fusion’s design change, but confirmed that the name will probably stick around. “We’ll likely continue to use the name because of its awareness, positive imagery and value with consumers,” he said.
The reinvention of the Fusion falls in line with how Ford will transform the US-spec Focus into a pseudo-crossover. Ford is looking at ways to keep its sedan customers returning to their showrooms. Kelley Blue Book’s trade-in analysis showed that less than half of Fusion owners remain loyal to the brand. The most popular SUV models considered by Fusion owners are the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, according to the same analysis.
“Ford has a hard time moving people from their cars to SUVs,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Autotrader.
Ford’s president of global markets Jim Farley previously hinted at the Fusion’s transformation when he explained that the company was going to offer a “growing variety” of “utility body styles.” He said those new models would “give customers the utility benefits without the penalty of fuel economy.”