A week before I took delivery of the Ford Fusion Energi (starting at $31,400), the automaker announced it would be ending the US production of all but one of its cars (the Mustang) in the next few years. The Fusion's days are numbered, and no single review would save it. So now what?
The odd thing about the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid sedan is that it would be perfect for a world in which cars are no longer purchased and instead are used by ride-hailing services. The comfortable interior has seating for five. Its hybrid drivetrain won't win the car any medals or impress your friends but is fine for freeway and city driving. It's a fine car. It's a great car. It's just not that exciting and soon it'll be gone and there's a good chance other perfectly adequate cars from other automakers might also be gone in the next 10 years.
The public's desire to drive SUVs shows no signs of abating, so Ford made a business decision. Automakers killing off vehicles in its lineup is nothing new. If an automobile isn't selling, it's best for the company to cut its losses and focus on what resonates with the market.
Ford just went a little further than most. But if the world of "mobility" plays out the way automakers think it will, expect more and more companies to dissolve the cars, trucks and yes even SUVs that don't excite passengers and the few folks that still want to (or have to) drive.
The Ford Fusion Energi is an outstanding (but not that exciting) car with an impressive 97 MPGe in hybrid mode when fully charged and a 21-mile range when in EV mode. If it were an SUV, it would be spared the coming cull at Ford. But it's too close to the ground.
But it's more than a car's height that will eventually doom it. It's whether or not it works in the autonomous world and delights passengers. First, they'll be AI-controlled ride-hailing vehicles. Then years after that, individuals will be able to buy their very own self-driving car. You don't need four SUV trim levels to pick up passengers when a small one for quick errands will do with the large luxury SUV available for larger groups going out on the town.
That's what's happening now. Why have the Ford Fusion Energi when the automaker plans to add more hybrid and EV drivetrains to its truck and SUV lines?
Driving the Ford Fusion Energi at no point quickens the pulse. But it's not that type of car. It's a sedan for someone who wants to great mileage and a comfortable ride. In the near future, they'll only be able to get that from a couple of Ford SUVs. But in 20 years, the number of choices from each automaker will shrink even more. Cars are and will continue to get smarter, but like some mechanical Darwinian battle, only the biggest and strongest will survive the evolution of commuting.