Some things seem to get better with age – wine, jeans…and the Ford Fusion sedan? 

Clearly not the image typically conjured with the phrase and potentially a misnomer too since older versions of the model aren’t performing in any extraordinary fashion in either the new or used vehicle markets, but Ford has so upped the ante with its latest iteration of the Fusion that somehow the quote seems fitting.

As Ford Motor Company is planning to launch its newest iteration of their bread and butter mid-size sedan late this month lets first take a quick look back on the previous generation’s performance in the competitive mid-size sedan marketplace.

In terms of design, the previous generation Fusion remained relatively unchanged from when it was launched in 2006 until the 2010 model year when Ford significantly updated the interior and exterior. In addition to major appearance changes, Ford added a slew of new powertrain options including a hybrid-electric version, all of which improved efficiency. The updates that the 2010 Fusion received elevated its legitimacy in the mid-size car segment, even against well-seasoned Japanese models.

This higher level of competitiveness is what helped to narrow the once wide gap in new vehicle sales that existed between models from Japanese brands Toyota, Honda, and Nissan and the Fusion over the past five years.  In fact, new sales through July place the outgoing Fusion only 7k units back of the recently redesigned Camry.

Setting the Fusion aside for a moment, it’s important to note the sales parity for the mid-size segment as a whole over the past five years – competition within the segment has clearly tightened dramatically because the quality and appeal of each passing redesign continues to level the playing field.

Returning to the Fusion, average incentive spending for the model over the course of the past year has been relatively low in relation to the rest of the group.  That said, there was a notable spike in spending from May through July, but this can attributed to Ford ramping up offers in order to clear out remaining 2012 model year inventory before the all-new 2013 model hits showrooms in large quantities later this month.

Speaking of the new ’13 Fusion, the first thing you notice is its new bold styling. On the outside, the new sedan boasts an Aston Martin-esq front fascia, long flowing chiseled sides, and an aggressive rear section that contains styling cues found in much more expensive vehicles. Once you’re hooked on the exterior, the inside will keep your attention as the well-appointed cabin packed with all of the latest and greatest technological features are sure to keep consumers comfortable and connected. 
Ford will be building the Fusion in four different trim levels and will also offer four different powertrains which means that there should be a combination available to suit everyone’s taste. From a pricing standpoint, the Fusion is competitively priced with other sedans in its segment. The entry level S model starts off at $21,700, and the walkup to the SE ($23,700), SE Hybrid ($27,200), and top of the line Titanium ($30,200) are very reasonable for the additional equipment included. For comparison’s sake, entry level versions of the Chevy Malibu ($22,390), Honda Accord ($21,480), Hyundai Sonata ($20,895), Nissan Altima ($21,500), and Toyota Camry ($22,055) all are within $1,000 of the Fusion’s base price.

The new Fusion is another sign that the days of producing boring mid-size car appliances are in the past and that the heated competitiveness in this segment is set to become white-hot.  For the ’13 model year, the Fusion will be joined by a new Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima, and two of the older models in the group – the Toyota Camry and the Hyundai Sonata – were both just redesigned for the 2012 and 2011 model years, respectively.

Moving forward, Ford’s stated sales goals for the Fusion are to simply increase market share within the mid-size car segment and to narrow the gap between the segment’s Japanese leaders even further.

Considering the mid-size model’s stunning design and appealing lineup of highly economical variants – and yes, stunning and mid-size car were used in the same sentence – the Fusion stands a very good chance of exceeding Ford’s goals and radically changing the brand’s position within the segment in terms of both new vehicle sales and used value retention.  Whether this comes to pass or not, it will definitely be interesting to see how things ultimately play out as the degree of parity between models within the segment becomes all the more narrow.