2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion's Mission: Strengthen Consumer Relevance | Edmunds.com

2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion's Mission: Strengthen Consumer Relevance

Just the Facts:
  • A 30-minute TV special on February 24 examines the "Fusion Revolution" as the 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion — and its rivals — get ready for their first official race Sunday in the Daytona 500.
  • Ford says the 2010 experiment with a Mustang-themed NASCAR Nationwide Series car triggered the effort to develop the new cars.
  • The new cars were crafted to look like production models to enhance consumer identification.

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — A 30-minute TV special on February 24 examines the "Fusion Revolution" as the 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion — and its rivals — get ready for their first official race Sunday in the Daytona 500.

The Fox TV special airs at 11:30 a.m. ET on February 24 and looks at the process of Ford returning the stock car to NASCAR. Jamie Allison, Ford Racing director, says the Mustang, one of Ford Motor's most iconic models, helped lead NASCAR back to racecars that are more readily identifiable to consumers.

The 2013 NASCAR Fusion Sprint Cup racecar is one of the new-generation machines that have been carefully crafted to resemble the production models for which they are named. In contrast to the standardized bodies of the past five years, the new cars have all the sculpting and design cues of their "civilian" counterparts.

Under the skins, they are still purpose-built machines, no more "stock" than a Formula 1 machine. But at least they look like stock cars, and that, Allison says, is significant. He cited the introduction of the Mustang brand in NASCAR's second-tier division, the Nationwide Series, in 2010.

"We saw the exciting reaction from the fans, and even from people who didn't follow NASCAR," Allison said. "We knew then we were on the right track."

And that was with a racecar that did not even really look like a Mustang, except for the distinctive nose that was grafted onto the spec-body NASCAR piece. But it was close enough to stimulate a new wave of enthusiasm for the retro-looking edition of the Mustang, which came out in 2005 with a strong resemblance to the iconic 1967-'68 fastbacks.

Reaction to the Nationwide Mustang, and Dodge's Challenger-inspired Nationwide car, triggered a focused effort by the manufacturers to get rid of the spec-body cars, Allison said.

"We are a car company. This is car racing," said Allison. "This was a great opportunity to work with NASCAR on creating cars that people see on the racetrack that really look like what they have at home. The opportunity to bring back brand identity to these cars is something the fans have asked for, something NASCAR led, and something we as a manufacturer enabled."

Chevrolet will race a new car, the 2014 Chevrolet SS, that has been unveiled but will not be available for sale until late summer. Toyota continues to market its popular Camry. Dodge developed a 2013 NASCAR Charger model, but subsequently withdrew from NASCAR racing in mid-2012.

Chevy will also introduce its new-generation Camaro in the Nationwide Series. The Impala was previously Chevy's model in both the Sprint and Nationwide ranks.

Allison noted that the new cars represent a continuation of a recent trend that has seen NASCAR return to a closer representation of the equipment on consumers' passenger cars. He cited the evolution from high-octane leaded gasoline to unleaded fuel to the present ethanol-gasoline blend and fuel injection replacing carburetors.

The changes enhance manufacturer identity, Allison said, which translates into relevance — and, manufacturers hope, sales.

Edmunds says: A victory in the official debut of the new Generation 6 racecar would give the brand three straight Daytona 500 victories and 14 overall — 17, counting three wins by Mercury. Consumer relevance will mean much more if the product is a winner.

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