It's been a long time since any analyst could seriously say a Ford (NYSE: F ) vehicle could compete with one of rivals Toyota (NYSE: TM ) or Honda (NYSE: HMC ) in terms of quality and value. That's what makes the Fusion a welcome addition to the world in 2013 – finally there's a domestic vehicle that can compete. It's clear by looking at the numbers that the Fusion is taking market share away from Toyota's Camry; that's great news as long as it continues to deliver on quality and value. Let's take a look at what critics have to say, how it's selling, and what it means for Ford as an investment.
The Fusion beat out five other models from Toyota, Mazda, and Dodge to take home this year's "Green Car of the Year" award from the Los Angeles Auto Show. Kelley Blue Book called this year's Fusion the "Best Redesigned Vehicle" of the year, noting that its style hints from Ford's previously owned Aston-Martin brand is refreshing in a typically bland segment. U.S. News & World Report crowned the Fusion with the 2013 "Best Cars for Families" award and it has won the best mid-size car category for three straight years. In addition, U.S. News dubbed Ford's ride the "Best Car for the Money" giving it credibility to compete on terms of value – a welcome change for Ford buyers.
Toyota's Camry has long dominated the segment but Ford's Fusion is clearly taking market share away recently. To get a better idea of how the gap has been closed, look at the graph below:
While Toyota seemingly bounced back last year, the story isn't the same five months into 2013. The Camry still has sold more vehicles but is down 6.8% in sales compared to last year. Meanwhile, the Fusion is up 25.4% compared to last year – closing the gap even further.
Why it's important
If you're a Ford investor, or potentially one, you already know that the most important segment is full-size trucks because it brings home the profits. That said, the Fusion is part of what Ford calls the "super segment", a combination of the subcompact, compact, midsize sedan, and small utility segments. Consider that those segments accounted for 35% of vehicle sales in 2004 but now represent more than half. Looking toward the future trends, where consumers are anticipated to continue to downsize vehicles, Ford expects market growth to surge in this "super segment". Ford is focusing its efforts there with newly designed or refreshed models and the result should improve the company's top-line revenue and sales figures.
I think the 2013 is a game changer, and not just because it has the potential to capture the Camry's leading position, but because it represents the change Ford has made as a company. Ford recognized it would no longer be a profitable company that warranted our investing dollars with the vehicles it produced 10 years ago. Since then, its efforts have created a lean operation to improve profitability and is now producing vehicles that can compete with its Japanese rivals. The Fusion represents those two points exactly. Ford announced that its Fusion production plants are running at 114% capacity, and that it plans to add more capacity as soon as this summer. When that happens, look for the Fusion to bring home even higher sales numbers – much to the delight of Ford investors.
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