The level of drama associated with the unveiling of a new model of car is something to behold - especially for someone who's not particularly into cars. At the crack of dawn this morning, with appropriately dramatic pomp at the North American International Auto show in Detroit, Ford CEO Alan Mulally and his team revealed several new varieties of the Ford Fusion. You might have though it was the next Apollo moon landing by the volume and excitement in the room.
Although I was disappointed the cars did not fly, the innovation they represent is significant in a number of ways, most notably in terms of fuel efficiency, hybrid technology and a solid commitment to fully electric drive.
Behold, the glory... (video and photos after the jump)
The Fusion happens to be one of the more popular cars Ford has recently made - with almost 250,000 sold in 2011 - making it second only to the Toyota Camry for mid-sized vehicles. Fusion's traditional, gas powered engine for 2012 will offer two different "eco-boost" options, the better of which is expected to bring the car up to a respectable 37mpg on the highway. The new hybrid version will now boost the car's efficiency to 47 mpg in city
driving and 44 mpg on the highway.
Most exciting is a plug-in electric version, the so-called "Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid" which tops out at an incredible 100mpg "equivalent" - a way to measure the efficiency of hybrid or electric engines. Not too shabby. To top it off, the Fusion Energi allows the driver to choose when to use electricity or not by accessing a mobile smartphone application. The car can even be preprogramed when to charge the car’s batteries at times when electrical demand and costs are lowest.
All the cars will feature the type of safety features we learned about last summer at Ford's blogger conference such as lane change alerts, adaptive cruise control and clever ways to help you park.
What's most exciting to me is quite simply, the excitement. Although this year's auto show contains plenty of muscle and flash, the emphasis on efficiency and electric vehicles in particular is notable and obvious. There also isn't a Hummer in sight. Though perhaps borne more of necessity in light of high gas prices, the trend toward using less gas is strong and evidently quite fashionable.
More to come!
(naturally, my photos are all on a camera without a cord, so here are some stock photos to keep your curiosity down)
* Full disclosure - travel expenses to Detroit this year were covered by Ford.