100-mpg Fusion sparks interest -- too early
Coming hybrid might cut demand for '12s
When a customer told Vandalia, Ohio, Ford dealer Larry Taylor last week that he was interested in buying a Fusion Hybrid, Taylor walked him over to look at a 2012 Fusion Hybrid.
The customer looked at the car and shook his head. He said, "No, not that one. I want the one that gets more than 90 mpg," Taylor recounts.
Taylor had to tell the customer that the car he was interested in, the 2013 Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid that Ford says will get in excess of 100 mpg, probably won't arrive until fall.
Ford showed the Fusion Energi and the rest of the Fusion lineup at the Detroit auto show, generating tremendous buzz. Several magazines called the Fusion the best car of the show.
Taylor and other dealers are happy with the hype surrounding the 2013 Fusion. The mid-sized sedan drew raves for its looks, its luxury-level technology appointments and its array of fuel-efficient drivetrains. But there's a potential problem: Taylor still has about 80 units of the 2012 Fusion on his lot.
Not here yet
"I'm kind of worried about it. I've got quite a few of the '12s. That car's not going to be here until September," Taylor said. "As a member of the dealer council, I warned them about pre-advertising and promoting things we don't have. Ford has had a problem building up things that aren't on sale yet."
The first Fusions won't arrive in showrooms in volumes until early fall. Ford has said the first Fusions will have internal combustion engines, including two versions of Ford's EcoBoost engine: a 1.6- and a 2.0-liter. Two alternative powertrain versions -- a gasoline-electric hybrid and the plug-in hybrid called Energi -- will arrive after that.
Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Ford was "right on plan regarding Fusion sales and our inventories for the rest of the year." He said the new model would arrive in about October.
Marsha Shields, an officer of McCombs Enterprises in San Antonio, says she has been amazed at how many customers have been asking about the 2013 Fusion at McCombs Ford since the Detroit show unveiling.
Shields understands the need for a smooth transition between the outgoing model and the new one, but says, "We wish they would ramp them up faster."
Kevin Collins, owner of Bill Collins Ford in Louisville, Ky., says his dealership has received a lot of questions about the Fusion since the car made headlines at the Detroit show.
Collins says he's still placing wholesale orders for 2012 Fusions. He wants to be sure he has plenty of cars to tide him over during the roughly two months between the end of production for the 2012 Fusion and the launch of the 2013 model.
"You're going to have to have carryover units because you're going to have potentially a 60-day gap. If you miscalculate, you're going to have 60-day gap without any product and that would be disaster," he says.
Collins believes many customers will gladly buy the 2012 Fusion, which hit a sales record in its last full year before the redesign, an unusual feat. The Fusion had U.S. sales of 248,067 units in 2011. He also thinks some customers may hold off their purchases as they learn about the drivetrain options on the 2013 model.
"All these new technologies are important, but they also bring a bit of confusion in the minds of consumers," Collins says. "The real confounding piece of the puzzle is: Can you bring that tech to the market affordably?"
Ford hasn't set prices on the 2013 Fusion, but the company has said it wants to keep prices similar to those of the outgoing model.
Jim Seavitt, owner of Village Ford in Dearborn, Mich., says the favorable publicity about the 2013 Fusion hasn't stopped customers from buying the 2012 car. Shortly before the end of January, Village Ford had sold 58 Fusions for the month, vs. its normal rate of about 40, he says.
Ford was offering Detroit-area customers $2,000 customer cash and $500 bonus cash on the Fusion last week.
Such incentives will be necessary to keep the outgoing 2012 models selling, says the Vandalia, Ohio, dealer, Taylor of Beau Townsend Ford. Taylor believes plenty of customers are looking for good value, even if the current car will be replaced this year.
Whatever problems come with the transition to the new model, Taylor believes it's a good sign Ford is launching a new car that has created so much excitement.
"It has people juiced. That's good. There are car buffs out there," he says. "This is what gets them up in the morning."
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.