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Mulally Shakes Up Hybrid Market with New Ford Fusion

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Ford's answer to the electric car dilemma -- the new Fusion -- feels as much at home on an interstate highway as on a narrow European street.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL When Alan Mulally first took the reins of CEO at Ford (NYSE: F), some automotive industry pundits questioned whether someone who spent the bulk of his career at Boeing (NYSE: BA) had the mettle to make a great car.

The answer was on display yesterday in New York City's Times Square, when Mulally, joined by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, unveiled the 2013 Ford Fusion. No product better exemplifies what the 67-year-old Mulally, reportedly discussing succession plans with his board of directors, has done for the American auto industry.

The new Fusion represents the bold thinking Mulally brought to Ford in 2006. Back then, it wasn't uncommon for a large American auto company to have separate engineering and design subsidiaries depending on where it did business. Ford of Europe, for example, designed and built cars for the continent, and only shared what it thought it needed to with its counterparts in Detroit and Asia.

But Mulally envisioned a Ford that created global products. Although the Fusion is sold under the Mondeo nameplate in Europe and China, it's pretty much the same car that someone in America will buy. The new Fusions on display at yesterday's Times Square event had crisp, clean lines with interiors that boasted easy-to-read instrument panels.

The most innovative feature of the dashboard is a full-color, liquid crystal display that "rewards" a driver's efficient habits (that is, not engaging in the annoying gas-brake-gas-brake style of driving) by growing a virtual vine with green leaves across the display. Steering and handling were developed under the one-car mantra; the Fusion feels as much at home on a Los Angeles highway as it does on a narrow German road.

The Fusion is Ford's answer to the electric car dilemma as well. For years, consumers interested in electric or hybrid-electric cars had to make the decision to give up styling in favor of making a statement that they were sensitive about the environment. Toyota's (NYSE: TM) popular Prius and GM's (NYSE: GM), well, not-so-popular EV1 come to mind. Ford decided to go the other way: It would electrify its mainstream cars. Nissan (PINK: NSANY) took this course as well with its Altima sedan.
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