Sometimes a car brochure will positively sweat with pro-lifestyle excess, while others simply play things straight down the line. The best brochures will give you an accurate description of the conveyance they represent, the worst will leave almost everything to your imagination and force you to carry out your own research.
The most fascinating, though, are those which point to a car manufacturer not having the faintest idea what to do with one of its products. A case in point is the European Ford Fusion – a very different car to the comfy family sedan of that name that clogs the streets of North America
Click on the images to enlarge and experience the full magnificence
The European Ford Fusion is a genuinely odd car. Under the surface it was basically a Mk5 Ford Fiesta. Same engines, same front-wheel drive layout, same twist-beam non-independent rear suspension. But shown by the illustration above, it was a taller car than the Ford Focus.
It was also, in many ways, a far more useful car than either.
“Spacious accommodation overlooking the city”
The brochure presents the Ford Fusion as a machine in which to take on the urban challenge and come out unscathed. Its high ground clearance and lack of ultra low-profile tyres mean it can plough through potholes with merry abandon. Its high driving position gives nervous drivers a commanding view of the road ahead, and its blocky outline gave it a practical interior.
Its makers described it as the first of its kind.
“Ford Fusion blurs the boundaries between traditional car categories, a smart fusion of the best available elements, without compromise”
It made a lot of sense. Although the brochure didn’t go so far as to specify what the categories were, you just know that they mean that the Fusion was intended to combine SUV practicalities with the running costs and simple technology of an everyday family hatchback. This was a very noble concept, and one that Ford was pretty shrewd to pursue. But somehow it didn’t take the concept half as far as it could have.
So why on Earth didn’t Ford milk the SUV craze for all it was worth? Why did they show the top-spec Fusion 3 model in pensioner-friendly Oyster Silver – or ‘Beige’ as it’s otherwise known?
“Fusion 2 and Fusion 3 models add even more neat features, like the front passenger seat back that can be folded flat to double-up as a work surface or table”
The Fusion had a bigger boot than the Fiesta, a more hard-wearing interior, more flexible seating, better headroom and the ability to deal with poor road surfaces. These skills were of obvious appeal to urban dwellers, but nowhere in the brochure is there any mention that it has obvious applications outside the city limits.
The lady in the image above, with her bulky, rolled carpet. That could so easily have been an inflatable raft, a big tent or a a collection of rucksacks. Not only was the Fusion a practical machine for daily household tasks, it also made a great machine for those days that you wanted to let your hair down. So why didn’t Ford mention this in the brochure?
The Fusion remained on sale in the UK for a long while, but almost immediately developed a rather lacklustre reputation as a car for the mobility impaired. It’s a terrible stereotype to mention, but the Fusion was popular among the elderly thanks to its easy access and egress. More mature drivers weren’t bothered by the unexciting engine choices, either. There were no lifestyle link-ups that I’m aware of – while Peugeot had its Quicksilver and Mitsubishi its Animal surfwear tie-ups, and Ford itself had established a link with North Face when marketing the Explorer, the Fusion was pretty much left to its own devices. There was no real explanation as to who it was intended to appeal to.
A look at the current Citroen C3 Picasso shows you what Ford could have done. With the addition of a bit of stereotypical matt-black cladding to the sills and wheelarches, a suggestion of nudge-bars on the bumpers, and a set of utilitarian roof bars, the Fusion would have the quasi-SUV looks that British buyers presently clamour for. Everybody, it seems, wants to own an exciting all-terrain SUV, even if few actually ever make use of their capabilities. An economical, inexpensive car that talks the talk without necessarily walking the walk could have been big business.
Today, of course, Ford sells the Ecosport, which rather more closely follows the recipe outlined above. The problem is that it’s not very good, and it’s competing in a market that’s close to saturation. Back when the Fusion was introduced in 2002, that market was markedly more barren, and I’m pretty sure the Fusion could have made a real splash if Ford had pushed the boat out with its marketing.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford Motor Company. Why not explain what it was a ‘Fusion’ of, and why that was a good idea? Come on, Ford, what were you playing at?)