2007 Ford Fusion Closeup
By Chris Kassab, FCN
When it comes to vehicle personalization, not all cars are created equal.
"In order for customization to be successful, you have to start out with a vehicle that looks good and performs well," said Beau Boeckmann, vice president of Galpin Motors in California, the largest Ford dealership in the world. He is also the head of Galpin Auto Sports (G.A.S.), an all-inclusive design and customizing facility and the new home to MTV’s hit show Pimp My Ride.
"People aren't dumb. They're going to start with something good and make it better," he said. "They're not going to take something bad and try to make it look good."
According to Boeckmann, the Ford Fusion fits the bill.
"It's actually a cool car," he said. "It's good-looking, and it drives well."
Dan Geist, marketing manager for Ford Fusion, says people are drawn to the car because it stands out from the crowd in the mid-size sedan market.
"The fact that the car is now available in all-wheel drive and still more affordable than competitors like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord makes it even more attractive," he said. "The car is a great canvas to work from, unlike a lot of other mid-size sedans that are mundane or vanilla."
Christine Feuell, manager, Vehicle Personalization and Accessories, agrees.
"The sporty design of the Fusion lends itself really well to accessorization," she said. "People who are buying this car want it to reflect their personality. They want the roominess of a four-door sedan, but they don't want it to look like a 'family car,' so they're changing it up and tricking it out to suit them."
Most people start by changing the wheels, upgrading the sound system and adding a spoiler, according to Feuell. Remote start systems and the recently introduced 3dCarbon body kit are among the most popular accessories available for Fusion through Ford's production and dealer channels.
"Customers love adding extra features that make the car look different than the vehicle they get directly from the factory," she said, noting that sales of the 3dCarbon body kit have been robust. More than 500 kits have been sold since Vehicle Personalization began selling them in June.
But it's not just exterior features that customers are looking for. Charles Sutton, car product strategy manager for Fusion, says savvy car buyers don't want to compromise on interior amenities.
"With gas prices being the way they are and people focusing on cutting things back, we're seeing a shift away from big SUVs into crossovers and mid-size cars like the Fusion," he said. "Though they may be downsizing, people still want to continue to have all of the features that they've become used to in their SUVs."
Interior accessories available for Fusion include Mobile Ease -- a hands-free system for Bluetooth-equipped wireless phones, a trunk cargo organizer and a head-rest integrated DVD system.
"What we're trying to do is put a living room on wheels," said Sutton. "We're offering dual headrest DVD systems as a licensed accessory. One child can be watching a DVD while the other is playing a video game, or each child can be watching a different DVD."
Customers are also looking for improved performance.
"Fusion is our NASCAR vehicle, so we do get somewhat of a brand image extension because of it," said Feuell. "We're working with Ford Racing and the Special Vehicle Team on other packages and content that we can combine with some appearance features to give customers more of that performance flair on Fusion."
According to Sutton, the company has more exciting options in the works for Fusion. For example, the next generation remote start system will offer something extra.
"What we're working on right now is a device that will allow you to regulate the temperature inside the vehicle," he said. "It's going to be huge for cold-weather climates because it will allow people to control the heat remotely from the key fob."
The company is also working on custom leather seat covers, 17-inch black and chrome styled wheels and color-adjustable interior lighting.
"While Mustang and F-series are the core products for our accessories portfolio, our plan is to expand our accessory offerings for Fusion so it will also be a core product for us." said Feuell. "Fusion is a great vehicle for accessorization. Our customers want more accessories to choose from, and we want to give it to them."