DETROIT — Not since 1996 has the top-selling car in America come from a domestic brand. In 2012, it finally looked like Ford Motor Co. had an answer to the Japanese automakers' dominance of the segment.
Knowing it had a potential hit on its hands, Ford marked the arrival of its second-generation Fusion with an elaborate celebration in New York's Times Square and "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest.
Ford touted the hybrid version's 47 mpg rating, but would-be customers were most impressed with the Fusion's handsome, aggressive styling, a bold departure from the traditional view of the enormous midsize sedan segment as bland family-haulers.
"When that car came out, it looked like an Aston Martin," recalled Jim Seavitt, owner of Village Ford in Dearborn, Mich.
Only six years later, the Fusion is headed for the scrap heap — at least in its current form. Ford announced in April it would discontinue all sedans in North America as its lineup evolves to virtually all crossovers, SUVs, pickups and vans.
The Fusion's impending demise comes as a white flag from Ford in a segment Detroit had long been desperate to reconquer. But it's also a proclamation that winning the midsize segment no longer matters nearly as much as the profits pouring in from its pickup and utility vehicles.
U.S. Fusion sales topped 300,000 in both 2014 and 2015, territory that domestic cars hadn't touched for many years. But it never managed to loosen the iron grip Toyota, Honda and Nissan had atop the segment. Coupled with the buyers' shift to crossovers and SUVs, Ford decided the Fusion wasn't worth saving, despite the brand equity it had built up over more than a decade.
"As good of a product as Fusion has been for us, that C-D segment has declined dramatically, in breathtaking fashion, and it's accelerated over the past couple years," Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, told Automotive News.