CARS.COM — The next step for the Fusion, Ford’s mainstay family sedan, is open to question. Citing a letter to suppliers, The Detroit News reported that Ford will cancel a North American redesign it had planned for the 2020 model year. That reportedly shuttered program means the Fusion could enter the next decade on the same underpinnings that hit dealers in late 2012, but Ford promises the nameplate will live on with new features to come.
Related: 2017 Ford Fusion Review
The news comes a month after a Reuters report that the automaker would shift Fusion production to China from Hermosillo, Mexico, where it currently builds the U.S. version. Ford reportedly told Reuters at the time that it wouldn’t export the next Fusion from China to the U.S. but would “have more information to share” about the next-gen car “at a later date.”
Citing an unnamed source with alleged knowledge of the plans, The Detroit News reported that Ford will continue to sell the Fusion and its international sibling, the Mondeo, “at least three to four years” longer. That doesn’t necessarily signal the chopping block — where crosstown rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took its family sedan, the Chrysler 200 — but amid consumer fervor for SUVs, it leaves the Fusion’s next move in question.
Stephanie Brinley, a senior automotive analyst at IHS Markit, considers the news a change of direction, not necessarily a cancellation.
“I think that Ford is rethinking what their formula is going to be — more so than walking away from the segment,” Brinley said. “It’s still a big segment.”
Could the automaker engineer a same-platform update without a full redesign, as it did with the prior-generation Escape a decade ago? Perhaps, she said, but she thinks the car in “some form will remain.”
Asked to comment on the report, Ford spokesman Mike Levine issued a statement to Cars.com that the Fusion “remains an important part of the Ford lineup for years to come with even more new fresh features on the way. We will have more news to share in the future.”
The current generation’s last major update came in mid-2016, when Ford issued a mid-cycle refresh for the 2017 model year that included a new Platinum trim with a leather-wrapped dashboard, as well as a 325-horsepower Fusion Sport.
Sales in the U.S. tumbled 21.1 percent in 2017, though you could chalk much of that up to lower incentives amid a struggling class of family sedans with two new competitors. Redesigns for the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord hit dealers late in the year, but the whole class still declined 16.1 percent in 2017, per Cars.com’s analysis of Automotive News data. Meanwhile, Autodata Corp. notes Ford slashed Fusion discounts by 9.3 percent versus 2016.
Still, the sedan remains popular. With more than 200,000 sales last year, it ranks as the 19th best-selling nameplate in the country, by Automotive News’ tally.
That rank could fall if additional updates don’t come soon. Letting the current generation stagnate will “affect sales going forward, as well, so you’re in that position of needing to invest in order to keep the sales alive,” Brinley said. “If you don’t invest, you’ve kind of got a self-fulfilling prophecy of sales declining.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated Jan. 8, 2018, to reflect the Fusion’s rank as a national best-seller.
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