A completely redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion has been picking up all sorts of kudos among the automotive press since it arrived on the scene in the last few months. New from the ground up, the Fusion is considered Ford’s most significant midsize car since the Taurus in the early ’90s.
This makes its recent achievement as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) even more significant. Ford has suffered in quality ratings due to its high-tech MyFordTouch infotainment system, which uses voice and touch commands to interact with many different Internet-based apps, but the distraction its systems may cause was not a part of the IIHS testing.
IIHS crash testing mainly rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests. It also conducts a rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts, which is a common accident.
Belt and Bag Technology
Ford points to its many new safety technologies as the reason for the win. Its new safety belt and frontal impact airbags have futuristic computerized brains to know how to assess a crash situation and act accordingly. From a central “chip,” something called the restraint control module (RCM) can translate information from the front crash sensors, front safety belt buckle switches, driver-seat track position, and passenger seat weight sensor. With all this information, the RCM activates the safety belt pretensioners and determines how the dual-stage front airbags will deploy. All this technology results in adapting the airbag release to the size of the person.
Airbags have become increasingly complicated in the competitive landscape of safety technology. The strategy Ford is employing seems to create the right airbag to go off for the right-sized person. If the occupant is large, the side airbag lines up with the shoulder, keeping the side airbag solidly inflated. On smaller passengers, the side airbag vents, keeping the firm part of the bag at shoulder height for smaller people.
Filling in Blind Spots
Other safety features on the all-new Fusion include blind spot information system with a cross-traffic alert for making maneuvering in parking lots and traveling open roadways safer. The Fusion has something called BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) to sound an alert when the car is detected entering a blind spot. Cross-traffic alert warns if traffic is detected approaching from the sides, such as when you are leaving a parking space in reverse.
Competition is Steep
Ford needed to score this safety test to continue playing in the big game of finding enthusiastic buyers for its mid-size, moderately-priced cars. Most of the biggest contenders in this market have won the same honor. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat have each won the honor for their latest model year, making crash test scores simply a cost of entry for the segment.
Also, coming in at pricing that undercuts some of the most popular sedans is a smart strategy for Ford. A base Fusion with an Appearance Package lists for $25,745 — which is thousands less than a comparable VW Passat.
No doubt Ford is glad to accomplish this safety testing for the Fusion. Still to come are the government tests conducted by the NHTSA, which determine other types of safety. A car that achieves high scores on both these tests is usually in pretty good shape from a safety aspect.
Steve Kenner, Ford’s global safety chief, said that Ford’s safety technology efforts have paid off so far.
“The new Fusion is another example of Ford’s commitment to the highest standards of safety and we are proud that IIHS has recognized these efforts,” Kenner said.