This spring Ford officially launched its new Fusion Hybrid. The hybrid edition of the Fusion incorporates a number of technological advances, and actually bests both the Prius and Camry hybrids when it comes to MPG ratings.

We were interested to hear directly from Ford on their accomplishment and their hopes for this new model. So we tracked down Fusion Hybrid Project Leader Praveen Cherian, and asked him a few questions. We thought you'd like to see what he had to say about this big leap forward for Ford.


CAR TALK: This is Ford's first hybrid car. How is this hybrid system the same or different from, say, the Prius system?

Praveen: It's very different in the way we executed and sized the hardware. The Fusion also has a unique control strategy. This is evident in some of its key attributes. For example, it's been rated very highly by automotive journalists (Car & Driver, Motor Trend, USA Today, etc..) for its drivability - that is - the smoothness of transitions from gas to electric, or EV mode and visa versa.

At 47 MPH, the Fusion has the highest electric-only speed capability in the market. It also has great fuel economy for a mid-sized sedan - at 41MPG, we are eight miles better than the Camry Hybrid and one mile better than the Honda Civic Hybrid in the city.

CAR TALK: How were you able to get 41 MPG when Toyota, the smartest guys in the world, were only able to get 33 with the Camry hybrid?

Praveen: We had a significant focus on fuel economy, with hundreds of little, smart ideas implemented all over the vehicle. This helped us out do Toyota by eight MPG in the city.

CAR TALK: Is your campaign going to be, just like the Prius - only not butt ugly?

Praveen: Our message is "Fuel, Fun, Ford." The Fusion hybrid is the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan, period. The Fusion is fun to drive, too, with all the bells and whistles one would want in a premium car.

CAR TALK: Toyota has a great reputation for reliability. How do you compete with that?

Praveen: By consistently delivering high quality, as evident in '09 Consumer Report's ratings. Ford has made the most significant improvements and also has many vehicles that are positioned higher than the imports in quality. Ford hybrid power packs were rated among Ward's top 10 best engines.

CAR TALK: You're not going to be bankrupt in six months are you? If I buy one of these, I'm not going to have to have it serviced at my local Isuzu dealer??

Praveen: Isu - who?!

CAR TALK: You've decided not to distinguish it, in terms of looks, from the regular Fusion. Toyota and Honda have decided that people like other folks to know that "I'm driving a hybrid." It gives them that moral superiority they're seeking. Is the audience you're seeking different?

Praveen: Our research shows that the mid-sized segment customers are interested only in minor differentiations. They're more interested in great fuel economy and practicality. They want all the key elements of a "Fun to Drive" vehicle that gets great fuel economy.