Before and during the recession, people laughed at the idea that Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) could compete in sedan segments. Those were segments long dominated by Japanese automakers Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Honda (NYSE:HMC), and Detroit's Big Three were left for dead -- and rightfully so after decades of poor-quality products. At least for Ford, that stereotype has abruptly reversed, and its Fusion, Focus, and Fiesta have given the company a rebirth into the sedan segments.
The Fusion has been incredibly successful and is on pace to do something no other Ford vehicle has done in a decade aside from its F-Series -- top 300,000 vehicles sold. Here's a look at what's new for the 2014 model and what it means for consumers and investors.
The Fusion has drastically narrowed the gap with the Camry, which has seriously dominated the segment for years. Ford looks to continue that trend with its 2014, and it won't need any drastic changes -- if it isn't broken, don't fix it.
The Fusion, which was redesigned last year, picks up a new 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine option with a handful of new features. Some of those include a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats. One of the most popular options with the Fusion has been its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that provides a nice zip from its 240 horsepower. It still earns a respectable 26 mpg for combined highway/city driving and is even available with all-wheel drive -- something few midsize sedans can offer. Here's a handful of other highlights.
- Adaptive cruise control.
- Blind-spot detection.
- Automated parking assist.
- MyFord Touch.
- SYNC voice system.
That's all standard, but if you move up to the SE trim, you'll get options on a few extra perks. Among them:
- 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels.
- Exterior keypad entry.
- Heated mirrors.
- Six- or 12-speaker sound system with satellite radio.
- Keyless ignition/entry.
- Rear parking sensors.
- Sport-tuned suspension.
The interior doesn't disappoint, either, as it's well designed and uncluttered.
With plenty of legroom, and a very adjustable power driver seat, no one will have problems getting comfortable. Recently Ford was knocked down by J.D. Power and Associates for having a clunky MyFord Touch system, which is to be expected with such a new model -- redesigned just last year remember. In the years to come, Ford will tweak its infotainment system for the better, but for now that's just about the only knock against the Fusion.
It's difficult to find any fault with the Fusion, and for the first time in a long time, a Detroit automaker actually has a chance to top the Camry in the years ahead.
Here's another tidbit: Ford is still ranked No. 1 in consumer loyalty.
Along with selling well to consumers, critics have been just as pleased. Check out just a few of the numerous awards the Fusion has taken home.
- U.S. News & World Report's "Best Car for the Money."
- 2013 "Green Car of the Year" award from the Los Angeles Auto Show.
- Kelley Blue Book's "Best Redesigned Vehicle" of the year.
- U.S. News & World Report's 2013 "Best Cars for Families."
- U.S. News & World Report's "Best Mid-Size Car" (for three straight years).
Ford offers a unique opportunity for investment, which could bring in huge gains for those who have jumped in. It's still riding on a wave of optimism, as it was the only Detroit automaker not to take a bailout from Uncle Sam, and that has definitely helped. It owns America's best-selling truck for 36 years, and America's best-selling vehicle for more than 31 years -- the ever popular F-Series.
Ford is years ahead of crosstown rival General Motors in its global platform consolidation, leading it to margins in North America to top 11%, while GM barely tops 6%. The great thing about Ford as an investment is it still has much room to grow. In two years, when the company breaks even in Europe, and its operations in China become more profitable, the stock valuation could soar quickly -- rewarding patient investors who have witnessed one of the greatest turnarounds in business history.
Many investors can't get past the idea of what Ford was a decade ago, and those are missing a valuable opportunity as vehicle sales in the U.S. surge and the economy gradually improves. If you're not a Ford investor, it's definitely a company to look at or put on your watch list. You won't be disappointed in the Fusion, or any of Ford's new vehicles -- and you won't be disappointed in Ford as an investment.
Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.