A Detroit brand has not snared the title of "Best Selling Car" in America since the mid 1990s when the Ford Taurus captured the title. Since then, the Toyota Camry has been the top seller 14 of the last 15 years, with Honda Accord slipping in one year.
In 2011, the closest Detroit came to recapturing leadership in the all-important mid-size family sedan market was the Ford Fusion at 248,067, but that was compared with Camry sales of 308,510. Fusion beat the Accord this year in sales, but the Nissan Altima actually outpaced it by about 20,000 sales.
Who cares about this? Only auto industry insiders, though some companies do like to advertise "Best Selling in America." The Ford F-Series pickup is the overall best selling vehicle in America with 584,917 sold last year, and it does like to shout that in press releases and some ads.
"The mid-sized family sedan category is the most important car category in the country," says Ford President of Americas Mark Fields. "Get it right, and it boosts the whole showroom for a company."
But the real news here as Ford introduces a whole new design of the Fusion this week at The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is that Detroit, is that Detroit has, after more than a decade of not quite getting the five-passenger family mid-sized sedan right, is ready to mount a challenge again for top selling car in America. Not only is the Fusion an all-new design, but the Chevy Malibu has been redesigned as well. And they are facing off against all new designs of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord.
Have a look at the new all new Fusion and its chief competitors for the American family driveway.
If some car shoppers think the the all-new Ford Fusion, due in showrooms in the Fall, has a somewhat "Euro" look, it is because Ford designed this car to be a big seller in both the U.S. and Europe where the sedan will continue to be called "Mondeo," while the U.S. stays with "Fusion."
The front-end of the car is reminiscent of Aston Martins, which comes from the fact that its designers had previously worked on designs of the British luxury brand and wanted to bestow some "premium" design cues on the family sedan.
Among the competitive breakthrough for the new Fusion is that it is the first mid-sized family car to come in a gasoline powered version, as well as hybrid and plug-in extended-range electric.
"The Fusion we are selling today has been a top performer for Ford, and a lot of new customers that have come to Ford in the last three years have bought in," says Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields. "As much as the current Fusion is liked, this new design takes the car to a new place, and is combined with breakthrough fuel economy, safety features and a great ride."
The gasoline version of the Fusion is powered by a 1.6 liter EcoBoost engine, which will deliver 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. There is also a "performance" version of the gas-powered car that comes with a peppier 2.0 liter EcoBoost, and such niceties as 19-inch wheels, paddle-shifters that allow the driver to manually shift through the gears and all-wheel-drive.
The new Fusion Hybrid, which uses lithium-ion batteries, allows the Fusion to go up to 62 mph on just battery power before the gas kicks in. The fuel economy of the Fusion Hybrid will get 47 mpg in the city and 44 mpg in city driving. That is good enough to handily beat the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
Leading the Fusion offerings in fuel economy will be the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, which will go up against the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius plug-in as far as technology goes, but the Fusion will have the edge in being a more substantial and larger vehicle than either of those two rivals. The Energi is expected to be rated as more fuel and energy efficient than both the Volt and Prius plug-ins.
Ford is hoping to bowl over buyers with the viability of all its safety and connectivity bells and whistles.
It will be offered with the latest version of Ford's SYNC system, which enables voice-activated communication through a driver's mobile phone and connection to the vehicle's audio system; lane-keeping technology, which uses cameras and sensors to alert a driver to their own drowsiness or if the car is veering into danger; Active-park-assist, which makes it super-easy for drivers to parallel park; blind spot sensors and adaptive cruise control, which applies brake pressure if sensors are anticipating a collision.
As the best-selling passenger car in America, there is no question about which car is Ford's chief rival. It is the Camry, was out with an all-new design a year ahead of the Ford Fusion.
Sales were actually down 6% in 2011, but that can be mostly attributed to some lost production when Toyota was changing the model, as well as some parts shortfalls owing to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March.
Still, Toyota claims that of the Camry models built and sold over the last 15 years, 90 percent are still happily enduring a daily commute on nearly every corner of the planet. Pretty impressive.
The previous Camry had a pretty shoddy interior fit and finish, though that didn't seem to put off the Camry faithful. This new design is much better inside, and looks pretty decent outside too.
With 178 horsepower, the four-cylinder engine continues to provide smooth acceleration without undue noises or vibrations. Fuel economy is 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg highway, or 28 mpg combined. That's a three mpg increase in the city and two mpg bump on the highway and combined over the old vehicle. The Camry also corms in a V6 and a Hybrid.
Research the Toyota Camry
Toyota Camry Photos & Information
Toyota Camry Specs
Toyota Camry Local Dealer Price Quote
The 2013 Chevy Mailbu, due in dealerships this Spring, is an all new design. Not that the old one was bad at all. The Malibu that Chevrolet has been selling for the past four years has been a very nice piece of work, and well received by the press and customers. If it has been held back by any one thing, it is that "Malibu" name, which just makes the car feel like one of GM's duds from the 70s.
But that car, and this new version, is anything but a dud. Chevy will launch the "Eco" version in April, with other versions to follow. The Eco drive-train has paired the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine from the previous-generation Malibu with a 15 kilowatt electric motor and 115 volt lithium-ion battery pack. The engine alone produces 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, though the electric motor adds in an extra 15 horsepower and 75 pound-feet of torque to that mix. This isn't a hardcore hybrid. At no point can the electric motor turn the vehicle's wheels by itself.After the Eco's spring launch, an all-new 2.5-liter and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, both four-cylinders, will follow later in 2012. A V-6 is not planned.
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu will set you back $25,996, including destination, which doesn't exactly make it a steal compared to the more efficient 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid at $25,900 excluding destination.
Research the Chevrolet Malibu
Chevrolet Malibu Photos & Information
Chevrolet Malibu Specs
Chevrolet Malibu Local Dealer Price Quote
Honda will also send an all-new Accord design into the battlefield for the American family car payment. For now, the Accord, which slipped in popularity in 2011 with a nearly 17% drop in sales, offers a good price-value for consumers as most vehicles in their last year do, but it comes with a trade-off: bland exterior design, noisy ride, out of date interior.
Research the Honda Accord
Honda Accord Photos & Information
Honda Accord Specs
Honda Accord Local Dealer Price Quote
This is the 2012 Nissan Altima, but there is a whole new redesign on the way for the 2013 model we will see next Fall. We haven't seen it yet, but are expecting Nissan to show it at the New York Auto Show in April.
The Altima climbed in popularity in 2011, up more than 17% in sales.
Research the Nissan Altima
Nissan Altima Photos & Information
Nissan Altima Specs
Nissan Altima Local Dealer Price Quote
The Sonata has been climbing in popularity along with the entire Hyundai brand. The Sonata's strengths are many: snappy exterior design, up-to-date, clean, slick interior, strong fuel economy and a Hybrid option.
More recently, it has added Hyundai's new Blue Link system, which competes in theory against General Motors' OnStar system, offered in every GM vehicle, as well as for non-GM vehicles no by way of an after-market installation.
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is now good for 24 miles per gallon – a gain of 2 mpg – in the city and 35 mpg on the highway over the previous year's model, and models equipped with the company's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder now net 22 mpg and 34 mpg highway, up from 33 mpg highway in last year's car. The Korean automaker says that the small changes mean that the Sonata, for the 2012 model year, leads all mid-sized sedans in fuel economy, excluding hybrids.
Research the Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai Sonata Photos & Information
Hyundai Sonata Specs
Hyundai Sonata Local Dealer Price Quote