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Infotainment and hybrid sales appear to be helping for make the pitch

Q1 2013 was a record setter for Ford Motor Comp. in the so-called "super segment".  The company saw sales of 72,983 Ford Explorer SUVs (28,934 in March) and 80,558 Ford Fusion sedans (30,284).  That's the best the Explorer has sold since the launch of the nameplate 13 years ago.  And it's the first time Ford has sold 30k+ Fusions in a single month or 80k+ in a quarter.

I. Hybrids, Infotainment See Strong Sales

The automaker tells us hybrid and infotainment technology were key drivers to the record sales.  SYNC comes standard on Fusion and was a selected option in 98 percent of Explorers.  MyFord Touch, despite perennial criticism from reviews agencies, was picked up by a whopping 60 percent of Fusion buyers and 63 percent of Explorer buyers.

Ford Fusion and C-Max hybrids moved 21,080 units in Q1.  Ford saw much of this buying push coming from the cities -- Fusion Hybrid rose 518 percent in New York, 478 percent in Los Angeles, and 325 percent in San Francisco.

Ford Fusion
The 2013 Ford Fusion

Ford Explorer
The 2013 Ford Explorer

In terms of electrification not all has gone perfectly for Ford.  Ford Focus Electric sales have been very low volume.  But ultimately that's somewhat immaterial for Ford as just by having the vehicle in its fleet -- regardless of units sold -- it raises its average federal-certified fuel economy (which is a flat average across models, not based on unit sales).

II. Courting Younger Buyers

Ford's current marketing is focused on both the younger adult buyer and the middle-aged/early-retirement segment.  The hybrids and infotainment are critical to Ford snagging those younger buyers.  Ford says that 21 percent of hybrids ales are to drivers under 36, versus 29 percent of overall Fusion sales.

The first thing to note from that figure is that's a big chunk for both hybrid and non-hybrid sales, for a CD vehicle -- a more expensive segment.  While the hybrid figure indeed shows less young people are picking the hybrid variant than older buyers, it's also impressive not to see a bigger gap, given that the hybrid Fusion SE starts at $27,200 USD versus $23,830 USD for a non-hybrid Fusion SE.

Ford young buyers
Ford is snagging more young buyers than before.

The base Fusion SE has a fuel economy of 34/22 mpg (highway/city), while the hybrid gets an even 47/47 mpg (highway/city).  Assuming a 40-mile daily commute that's a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving for a five day work week, you'd save about 150 gallons of gas a year with the hybrid (on a 10.4k miles basis).  That means at $3.50 USD/gallon you'd save $525 USD per year and break even at 6 and 1/2 years (at $3.50 USD/gallon gas) or 5 and 1/2 years (at $4.00 USD/gallon gas).

Ford still has its work cut out for it in winning over infotainment reviewers and figuring a path to driving battery electric vehicle/plug-in sales, but it appears to be doing quite well in overall sales and in courting younger buyers, thanks to its aggressive technology push on multiple fronts.

Source: Ford

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RE: Sync & MyFordTouch
By RjBass on 4/18/2013 11:56:21 PM , Rating: 3
Sync is included in many base models as well. I just picked up a 2013 Escape last month and Sync came standard. And I have to say, I love it. I know it has gotten some bad reviews, but I really don't see where the problem is. My Android phone syncs right up with it (no pun intended), allowing me to play my Pandora channels on the go, and texting and driving is never an issue as Sync displays all my incoming text messages and lets me respond using my voice.

I haven't ever had a chance to check out other manufacturers infotainment systems, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but as it's my first one, I really do love it.

RE: Sync & MyFordTouch
By Spuke on 4/19/2013 12:41:28 PM , Rating: 2
And I have to say, I love it. I know it has gotten some bad reviews, but I really don't see where the problem is.
Sync has NOT been getting bad reviews, MFT (MyFord Touch which is optional) HAS been but, IMO, the reviewers simply don't understand technology. Given the take rate on MFT, it's not a problem with customers. That said, I find it hilarious that regular customers are smarter than reviewers who are supposed to be advanced auto buyers. Makes me wonder why I still have that Car and Driver subscription. Anyone have a subscription to a better informed auto reviewer?

RE: Sync & MyFordTouch
By superflex on 4/19/2013 1:37:20 PM , Rating: 2
C&D and MotorTrend are garbage.
I like Automobile the best.

RE: Sync & MyFordTouch
By Spuke on 4/19/2013 4:09:02 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks. I used to read them on occasion. I'll look at them again.

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