Saying Goodbye to the Ford Fusion – Ford’s Best Selling Sedan This Decade

Models come and go all the time, but very rarely do high volume sellers get cut from automotive brands’ lineups, and yet that’s exactly what’s happened to the Ford Fusion. In response to increasing consumer demand for crossovers, Ford became the first manufacturer to make the bold move to primarily sell SUV’s, getting rid of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus which is already having a ripple effect across an industry that appears to be transitioning away from the traditional family sedan. GM announced they’d be making a similar move, getting rid of the Chevy Impala and Cadillac CT6, but sales for those two cars pale in comparison to what the Fusion had brought to the Ford Motor Company over the last 15 years.

When the Fusion was first introduced, it was essentially going to be the replacement for the Ford Taurus, which at the time received some criticism from journalists. They felt that replacing an iconic car with something brand new would be received poorly by consumers, but as history has shown us, not only did the Fusion fill in perfectly for the Taurus, it became a strong competitor to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry the minute it arrived at dealerships. Back in 2018, Ford dealers across the country weren’t happy with this announcement that the company would cease production of the Fusion, and while crossovers and pickup trucks will be more lucrative in the near and distant future, concern over not having a sedan in the lineup is certainly warranted.

The 2nd generation Fusion that we’ve been accustomed to seeing on the roads over the last 6 years was a part of Ford’s global car strategy called “One-Ford”. Designed by Ford’s Europe division, the Fusion, along with the Fiesta and Focus arrived at showrooms around 2013, and these models would also be sold to other global markets. Seeing immediate success, the Fusion’s European styling along with it’s award winning hybrid model made this sedan a hot seller, and in 2013 and 2014, sales exceeded 300,000 cars in the US.

In the years leading up to a sharp decline in sales in 2018, the Fusion drew in many Americans due to it’s affordability, practicality, styling, and for some, it’s understated performance. Not common on the roads, the Fusion Sport gets a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 that puts out 325 hp and 380 lb ft of torque. Surprisingly it was faster than most mid-size sedans in it’s class, but with very little coverage from the automotive press and most consumers choosing the 1.5 and 2L four cylinder engines, the Fusion’s eyebrow raising performance numbers just couldn’t muster enough attention from the general public. Instead, the Fusion’s good fuel economy and hybrid trim made this car very desirable for the average American, along with it’s price tag of under $30k.

We could sit down and write a list of factors that have attributed to the demise of a sedan that many Americans welcomed with open arms when it arrived at dealers. One issue being the very old and warn out exterior that Ford didn’t update in the 6 years of the current generation being on sale. While initially sales skyrocketed in 2013 for the fusion, Toyota and Honda continued to change the design of their cars, and despite bold styling receiving mixed reviews by consumers, the Japanese rivals still see healthy sales numbers in a segment that’s experiencing a gradual decline in interest.

The interior is another aspect of the Fusion that no doubt played a role in slowing sales, but this is a sentiment many consumers had with the entire Ford lineup, and as we inch closer to a new decade, the brand out of Dearborn Michigan is back on track with refreshes for the Escape and Explorer. But could the interior facelifts that now appear in the crossovers have saved this sedan? Absolutely not, and there’s a few reasons why.

The most obvious is consumers aren’t buying family sedans at the rate they were in 2010. Even taking the safety aspect and versatility out of the equation for a minute, competition from Toyota and Honda arguably pushed Ford out of the segment entirely. Depending on your perspective, some of you might say that was due to Ford not refreshing the Fusion and other models every three years, or you feel that competitors from Japan were manufacturing better cars.

No matter what the circumstances were for this business decision, Ford is eager to turn the page and begin a new era starting in 2022. This will include the Ford Bronco, an electric crossover inspired by the Mustang, a compact pickup truck that will slot below the Ranger, and now the brand is talking about a new affordable vehicle that will replace the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion. Ford is being very vague about this affordable alternative, giving us no hints at whether it’s a crossover or a compact car. However, the brand has recently boasted that their new global platforms give Ford flexibility when it comes to creating and manufacturing all new vehicles.

The Michigan based brand may have been bold moving in the crossover and pickup direction, but there’s enough information out there to indicate that they have backup plans to quickly reverse course if the economy or consumer demand changes drastically.

At the end of the day, the Fusion getting cut from the lineup makes sense from a business perspective, but some consumers feel that the brand is losing the aspect of affordability with the Fiesta, Focus, and family cars no longer being in production. Unlike with most automotive news, Ford’s current state of affairs is a fluid situation. For the brand to now speak about an affordable vehicle of some kind by 2022 does seem to be a slight tweak in terms of overall trajectory for the brand.

It might be the end of an era, one that started with the Ford Taurus replacing the LTD in 1986, but this is by no means the official end of cars rolling off the assembly lines.

2019 Acura RDX – The BMW X3’s Kryptonite

We often resign to popular belief that BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi are the kings of everything automotive pertaining to luxury and performance. This then trickles down to consumer behavior where people are only buying certain models because the badge on the front and back may either impress those around them or they perceive those brands to be the best on the market. Near the end of 2018 before getting some time with the redesigned 2019 Acura RDX, I was surprised to find out that this luxury crossover is not only outselling the BMW X3, but its dominated this matchup the last three years.

Lately, there have been many in the industry who feel that German design has become quite reserved, whereas the Japanese are now the risk takers with some very edgy and futuristic front and rear fascias. The Acura RDX is no exception, and in fact for 2019 it’s sporting a more aggressive appearance that’s clearly attracting new buyers. One of the factors that’s playing a role not only in the mid-size crossover segment but others in the luxury market, is that non-German brands are finding new ways to find success that advertising and tradition just can’t achieve in 2019.

Pricing

The Acura RDX finds itself in a great position for a mid-sized luxury crossover, mostly due to the price tag. Starting just over $37k, the RDX sometimes gets compared to the smaller BMW X2 by consumers. This alone could be a reason why Acura’s smallest crossover outperforms the BMW X3 in terms of annual sales, but more importantly it undercuts the X3 when it comes to pricing. Because of this, the RDX finds itself at a competitive advantage because it’s more practical than the X2 and more affordable than the X3.

Fully specced out you can expect a price just under $50k. But it’s the mid-level trim that gets most of the attention as the RDX A-Spec not only comes available with a sporty appearance, but you can option for red leather seats with suede inserts that are honestly one of the most comfortable in it’s class. Paired with Apex Blue or Performance Red paint, the RDX’s road presence will easily turn heads and really stands out.

Performance

For performance, the RDX gets a 2 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that gets 272 hp and 280 lb ft of torque and is paired with a 10 speed automatic transmission which is all new for 2019. Just like with the Super Handling AWD system which Acura has brought back to the delight of both brand loyalists and journalists, the four cylinder has made a return as it replaces the V6 engine that was offered last generation.

While there’s a slight decrease in horsepower with a smaller engine, torque numbers increased. Acura says the 2019 RDX will go from 0-60 in around 5.7 seconds which is about half a second faster from 2018, but as of right now there is no official data. For drivetrain options, FWD comes standard with AWD being a $2000 option. When it comes to fuel economy, you can expect to receive 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with AWD, and if you choose to go with FWD, fuel efficiency numbers increase very slightly.

Practicality

Despite fuel efficiency being iffy with a combined average of 24 mpg, the RDX is actually rather spacious inside, and with that you’re going to have the ability to carry more items. You’ll find close to 30 cubic ft of cargo room which is an improvement of about 3 cubic ft from last generation and there’s additional compartments under the floor which is great if you have belongings you don’t want people to see and possibly steal. With the seats folded down, the rear cargo volume doubles in size to almost 60 cubic ft, which Acura claims is class leading in this segment of crossovers.

For all passengers in the back, they’re going to get an ample amount of legroom including the fifth passenger in the middle as the floor is flat which will allow that person to stretch their legs a little more than in most crossovers in this segment. Overall, both the driver and passengers are going to be comfortable, and the environment the RDX offers to all occupants makes this crossover perfect for longer road trips.

Final Word

The 2019 Acura RDX may not be German or have a performance package with a bigger engine, but it does offer an alternative to consumers who have no interest in buying a BMW, Mercedes Benz or Audi. Acura does have some weaknesses like its infotainment system that requires 5-10 minutes of learning before getting comfortable using it. Instead of a touchscreen you get a touchpad similar to what you find on any laptop, however there’s no mouse which naturally we’ve become accustomed to, so there’s a lot of guessing early on when trying to click on apps.

If you can get past the learning curve with the infotainment system, the RDX is actually a solid option for crossover buyers in this price range. In 2018 it’s outsold the BMW X3, Mercedes Benz GLC, and Volvo XC60 and that can be attributed to what the RDX offers. All trims from the technology package up receive a list of safety features standard that are optional equipment when configuring models from competitors, it’s spacious and comfortable, and has a classy, yet sporty appearance that’s appealing to look at.

Usually you can say that a German brand has the best model in a particular segment, but Acura has done their best to challenge that narrative and so far has been very successful with the RDX over the last few years. The only question that remains now is, with the X3 getting a much needed facelift, will BMW claim the throne? 2019 is about to get very interesting.

Under Geely, Lotus Could Be A New Player In The Crossover Game

It appears that to make a grand entrance in the automotive world of the 21st century you must unveil an entire line of crossovers. For the British car maker most renown for their small and light sports cars, crossovers are the key to their future success. Geely, who not only saved, but revitalized Volvo to being a serious competitor for German auto manufacturers in the crossover segment, now has ambitions to do the same for Lotus.

What’s really interesting about this development is not the fact that Geely has plans for two crossovers and a full sized SUV by 2022 for Lotus, but that these vehicles will be built on the same platforms that are used for the Volvo XC60 and XC90, and possibly the XC40 depending on the size of their new crossovers. Automotive brands have shared platforms for a while, but I’d venture to say this is unprecedented for the simple reason that Lotus and Volvo are two completely different companies and that the ownership group isn’t Ford, GM, and Volkswagen. Geely is changing the game right before our eyes, and these new crossovers may not just share the same body.

There’s very little information out there pertaining to what Lotus’ crossovers will look like or what we can expect for performance, but there has been some speculation that the same engines that are put into Volvo’s might be under the hood of Lotus vehicles early next decade. For instance, the XC60 and XC90 come with three engine options, with the T8 eAWD Plug-in Hybrid engine getting an eyebrow raising 400 hp and 472 lb ft of torque.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves with performance, Lotus has expressed that their DNA will be incorporated into the next generation of vehicles for the British manufacturer. This would suggest that these crossovers may be light and easily maneuverable, which is certainly not an attribute Volvo shares with Lotus. This would then raise the question on whether we’ll see a T8 put into a Lotus crossover or we should expect the XC40’s T4 and T5 engines that from a historical point of view, would make more sense for a brand that has sold lightweight and low horsepower sports cars, unless the Evora 400 is the bench mark moving forward.

Outside of platform sharing, this is all purely based on speculation and we have two or three years before we’ll find out the specifications of these new models. Many will probably roll their eyes at the idea of having yet another crossover on the road, but if Lotus is being completely honest with us about maintaining their DNA, these new vehicles might have some personality in a segment filled with soulless daily drivers.

2018 Buick Regal TourX – The Station Wagon Is Back In The US

In the automotive market, 2018 has begun much like every year this decade. Crossovers are the vehicle of choice by consumers and with each passing year, brands introduce new models to appeal to the growing demand for small SUV’s that provide road clearance, cargo space, and for some, off-road capability. Throughout this era of crossover dominance, there’s been a sentiment festering in the hearts of some Americans who want station wagons to once again have a presence in car brands’ lineups. The good news is that their wishes have been granted by GM with the all new Buick Regal TourX.

For Buick, this is the first time since 1996 that they’ve offered a station wagon. At first glance the TourX has a very European look and that’s because of the collaboration between Opel and GM. In the UK, the TourX is known as the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer. Many often refer to the TourX as being a twin to the Audi A4 Allroad, and while they do share similar design cues in terms of appearance, there is absolutely no relation. However, this is a blessing for Buick, as any similarity to a well known German station wagon could yield high rewards in the near future.

Buick is offering their station wagon at a base price of $29k, with the most expensive trim, the Essence, topping out at around $42k. There’s only one engine option: A turbocharged four cylinder engine that gets 250 hp and 295 lb ft of torque, and is paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission. For the drivetrain, AWD does come standard on the Regal TourX. The most important specification on this station wagon however is just how much cargo room you get. With the rear seats up, the TourX comes with 35 cubic ft of cargo room, but when the seats are folded down, that room doubles in size, outclassing all competition in it’s price range.

A lot of that has to do with Buick going with a mid-sized station wagon, rather than competing against the smaller Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. The TourX provides more cargo room than the Audi A4 Allroad, and in fact is more in line with most crossovers in terms of interior dimensions, but is significantly cheaper. Buick’s goal is to take on the crossovers in it’s price range, primarily the Subaru Outback. While the TourX isn’t an off-roader by any means, it’s a viable alternative as a daily driver for consumers who want the sensation of driving a car, but still have the cargo room that can be found in a Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4.

Ultimately, the most appealing aspect of this station wagon is the fact that it offers European luxury for less than the German and Swedish competitors. While there are GM elements that make up the interior of the TourX, it can be said that it’s at least on par with crossovers in it’s price range, and I’d argue that the interior is better than what you’d find on a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

When taking a look at the TourX Essence which is the top trim, you’ll get leather seats, a heated steering wheel, dual zone climate control, and an 8″ touch screen display. You’ll get a navigation system, along with up to date traffic reports, and even a 5 day weather outlook. A panoramic moonroof is optional, which brings in a lot of natural light and just gives the TourX a more luxurious feel. Optional packages include a number of safety features such as rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and front automatic braking.

Overall the TourX is a breath of fresh air in an automotive era filled with crossovers, especially in a price range at or below $40k. Hopefully in the near and not to distant future, American auto manufacturers build off what Buick is offering: 250 hp and AWD coming standard, no CVT transmission, and styling that is very appealing, even to consumers who aren’t in the market for a station wagon. Time will decide whether the TourX is the beginning of a new trend in the automotive world, but with other station wagons like the Audi A4 Allroad, Volvo V60 and V90, and the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack on the market, it could be argued that station wagons are creeping back into the United States.

Cadillac Should Be Focusing On Dodge, Not The Germans

Cadillac’s President, Johan de Nysschen, has been very vocal the past few months after the unveiling of the new Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V. He believes that the GM luxury brand will compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes Benz, especially when it comes to performance. But is Nysschen getting too far ahead of himself, especially since the BMW M3/M4 and Mercedes Benz C63 are already on the market? Not only that, but is he also forgetting a domestic rival that hasn’t been part of the discussion when it comes to performance?

Nysschen has been emphasizing performance over luxury when it comes to the ATS-V and CTS-V, essentially stating that this is BMW and Mercedes Benz “fanboys'” worst nightmare. However, by pushing the performance aspect of his two new cars, is he blindly walking into the hands of Dodge? The Charger and Challenger Hellcat could certainly give Cadillac a run for it’s money, especially since they’re all in the same price range, with Dodge offering more horsepower than Cadillac.

Even Cadillac lovers acknowledge that when the debates start firing up between the M3/M4, C63, and the ATS-V/CTS-V, “German car fanboys” revert back to the luxury aspect of their favorite cars. Nysschen is creating a new perception for his company, that Cadillac is no longer the forgotten luxury brand and is now a force to be reckoned with thanks to its performance. But the ambiance that he’s trying to capture might backfire as consumers see Dodge as performance-driven cars, putting Cadillac’s new perception in line with their American counterparts.

The Dodge Charger Hellcat’s starting price is $62,295, while the ATS-V will start at $61,460. The Hellcat has 707 hp and the ATS-V will have a 3.6L twin turbo V-6 supplying 464 hp. While on paper both cars wouldn’t be seen in the same class or market, we are talking about two cars that are in the same price range, both offering performance. Dodge has been forgotten, hidden in the shadows while Nysschen only makes reference to German automakers. A luxury car that offers performance is one thing, but by solely marketing performance, Cadillac is going to find themselves in competition with another American car brand, which wasn’t Nysschen’s intent.

When it comes to cars, American consumers traditionally want performance, power, and speed. Hardcore car enthusiasts on the other hand have always looked across the Atlantic and Pacific for cars that could offer both power and luxury. Cadillac is playing a dangerous game targeting the German car enthusiasts, while they should be trying to acquire American consumers who fully want power. The Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat are already satisfying those needs, whereas Cadillac is trying to target two completely different sides of the spectrum.

Cadillac will continue competing against their German rivals, but if they start overlooking the luxury aspect of their new performance luxury cars, they’ll find themselves in the same discussion with Dodge. Nysschen needs to cover all the bases, or the Hellcats will strike with force, putting them into the discussion that they can outperform Cadillacs.

Again, this isn’t Cadillac’s intent, and Dodge shouldn’t even be an afterthought. But when you enter the performance debate, it would be sacrilegious to forget about two muscle cars that are in the same price range, and can offer more horsepower.

Has Italian Ownership Changed The Chrysler Group For The Better?

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT (left) and Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged (right)
Chrysler Group / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

When Italians and Americans come together the end result is usually awesome, and Fiat-Chrysler is no exception. What has transpired over the past few years for the American manufacturer is a combination of the first three Rocky films, as Chrysler was this beat-up, almost irrelevant company, and in a matter of a few short years has become a force to be reckoned with. While Chrysler is changing the definition of American luxury, Dodge has become the automotive world’s version of Rocky Balboa; two tons of Italian-American muscle that has redefined what muscle cars are.

Starting with the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, clearly Italian influence is making its impact as the new muscle car now has a 707 hp engine, which makes it the most powerful American muscle car ever manufactured. But Dodge didn’t stop there, they’re now Hellcatting the Charger, which just like it’s brother, will be the most powerful four-door sedan sports car to come out of America. While Dodge’s SRT department retains the credit for creating the two beasts, Italian ownership clearly had some input on the power. Seeing that Fiat owns Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, they’ve incorporated Italian engineering with American muscle which has spawned two sports cars that’s making the Dodge Viper obsolete and forgotten.

By 2016, we’ll also have an SRT Dodge Dart which is certainly going to draw some attention, as smaller, powerful four-door compacts are becoming a trend. Even though the company is still Dodge, you can’t help but feel that it’s becoming an Italian car more than American, which is a good thing. The Chrysler group needed a push in the right direction, and by having a luxury manufacturer in Chrysler, and now what appears to be the performance division in Dodge, there is the right balance that’s boosted sales throughout the year.

Jeep on the other hand is becoming Fiat’s extended arm, as the new Jeep Renegade will be based off the Fiat Panda, a vehicle we don’t get here in the United States. The Jeep Cherokee has definitely been Italian-ized with that new, European look. It’s been recently reported that Jeep claimed Trackhawk as their performance name, raising speculation that we might see a Hellcat-like SUV that may change the perception consumers have on SUV’s in general.

Right now things couldn’t be better for the Chrysler group. They’re producing vehicles consumers want, spanning across multiple age groups that’s reshaped their customer base, and becoming more like a European auto manufacturer than American. Their new image of being young, fun, with a dose of luxury has certainly changed how Americans see the Chrysler group, and they’re now seeing strong sales because of it.

Chrysler Sales Rise 17% in May as Jeep and Dodge are in Demand

Chrysler reported strong earnings in May, as Jeep, Fiat, and Dodge carried most of the momentum heading into June. Jeep sales alone rose 58%, Fiat up 18%, and Dodge Ram trucks up 17%. Surprisingly the Chrysler brand itself didn’t report any gains, in fact sales were down 22%. The hope is that the redesigned Chrysler 200 can reignite sales as it will be the first model to get a whole new makeover that will be present in all Chrysler vehicles.

The Dodge Journey and Dart both had a great month, putting together a 33% gain in May. The Challenger on the other hand barely managed a 4% increase in sales, as subtle changes to the body didn’t seem to phase consumers.

With GM having their own problems, this is great news for the Chrysler group as confidence in their brand appears to be growing. The Jeep Cherokee is a favorite among buyers as it brings it’s all-new design and reputation as being a strong and durable SUV.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the 2015 Dodge Charger will sell. After the Charger’s unveiling at the New York International Auto Show, it didn’t get a warm reception. Some consumers didn’t like the fact that Dodge basically put the body of the Dart on the chassis of a Charger, making the once fierce-looking four door sedan look tame.

Despite Chrysler being owned by Fiat for a few years now, the company is still evolving and making major changes to their lineups. If sales continue to grow, there will be a bright future for them as their five year plan heading into 2018 looks very promising.

What Has Dodge Done With the Charger? From Fierce to Tame

 

Last week at the New York International Auto Show, Dodge unveiled the new 2015 Charger, that ultimately got mixed reviews. What was once known as a proud muscle car in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, to a formidable sedan used by countless police forces in the United States, has now become a bigger version of the failing model, the Dodge Dart. The question that must be asked is, “Why did they do this?” With the Challenger remaining relatively the same, there was no need for Dodge to go the full nine yards and change the Charger. What do you think? Like the new changes or no?

The only reasonable explanation for the sudden and drastic change to the Charger was the failing sales numbers the Dodge Dart has been posting as of late. Unfortunately for the American automaker, the Dart isn’t selling, as it’s having difficulty contending with the Ford Focus and the Toyota Corolla, two compact sedans that are fighting for the top spot in most sold cars around the globe.

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Reading the comments on social media, people find the Dart a bit bland, which is why combining it with the body and looks of a Charger probably wasn’t the wisest move, but only time will tell.

This does however raise questions whether Dodge will continue the compact sedan past 2015 as sales are low, and putting the looks of the Dart with the Charger brand might help turn around the numbers. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if anyone buys the new look Charger, especially police forces around the country. I don’t know about you, but seeing the 2008-2014 Charger as a police car is intimidating enough, but with the 2015 model, I just don’t get that same sense of fear.