When Ford announced it was ending U.S. production of all its cars other than Mustang, a new version of the Focus quietly remained.
That model, named Focus Active, would be a hatchback utility vehicle produced in China and imported to America.
Otherwise, the automaker signaled its established crossovers and some new SUVs would carry the brand into the 2020s. Not even the attractive Fusion sedan would survive.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the Fusion nameplate may also return to the U.S. in crossover form. Given the details the source provided, it’s not difficult to imagine what such a Fusion would be like.
A ‘high-roofed hatchback’ to counter the Outback
Bloomberg’s sources, both of whom claimed knowledge of Ford’s future plans, described a “high-roofed hatchback” model that would use Fusion’s underpinnings. The idea would be to field a competitor for the Outback, Subaru’s all-wheel-drive wagon that surpassed Fusion in sales in 2018.
With that description, it doesn’t sound all that different from Ford’s plans for the Focus hatch. Rather than giving up on an established brand-name, the automaker would simply adapt it for the current market.
(While the Bloomberg report described Fusion as “slow-selling,” it remains in the top 30 on U.S. sales charts — two places behind Outback.)
If you need to imagine what a Fusion wagon would look like, we only need to look to Europe. Ford already sells one there.
Lessons from Mondeo Estate
While the Mondeo Estate might sound like a posh development in L.A., it’s simply the name for the Fusion wagon sold overseas.
Like the Fusion sedan, it rides rather low to the ground, so we imagine it would need some elevation in order to become a contender in this segment. Likewise, it would have to get power to the rear wheels to legitimately compete with Outback or Toyota RAV4.
Otherwise, Ford could leverage its considerable expertise in the SUV space to deliver another product for this growing market. Considering the number of mediocre crossovers selling in volume in 2018, that wouldn’t be impossible.
Topping the Subaru Outback, on the other hand, would be a heavy lift.
Ford’s crossover weaknesses
One problem Ford might have here is the singular appeal of the Fusion as a sedan. Michelle Krebs, a KBB analyst, told Bloomberg the brand’s dealerships see Fusion customers leaning toward crossovers from Honda and Toyota rather than Ford.
We imagine style and overall vehicle height play into that. Escape, Ford’s compact crossover has nearly 2 inches more ground clearance than RAV4.
Meanwhile, Escape has one of the blandest appearances of any model in the segment. Rav4 and even Honda CR-V top Ford’s entry on the style front.
Of course, standard all-wheel drive makes models like Outback instantly more appealing. In RAV4’s case, that model’s rock-solid reliability rating trumps anything Ford has in the segment.
The bottom line is, Ford could turn the Fusion into a wagon or crossover, but we can’t think of any reason people would buy one over the segment leaders.