DETROIT TheStreet) -- Not to say the 2012 Fusion has been unsuccessful, but Ford (F) took a new approach to the 2013 version, seeking not only upgraded styling but also improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
In 2012, Fusion had a good year, selling 248,067 units, making it Ford's best-selling car. But the brutally competitive midsized sector requires constant updating. Toyota (TM) has a new Camry, GM (GM) will soon have a new Malibu, Honda (HMC) unveiled a new Accord at the Detroit Auto Show and Hyundai and Nissan also have popular vehicles.
So every edge counts, particularly the improvement in gas mileage that enhanced aerodynamic engineers will be able to provide.
"When we looked at aerodynamics, we attacked the entire vehicle," says Steve Parks, lead aerodynamics engineer for the Fusion. "We wanted to make sure we were squeezing all the blood we can from the turnip."
Ford says it spent an equivalent of 2 million computer hours, using parallel supercomputers, on Fusion aerodynamics. "Using techniques that have been evolving since the '70s and '80s, we used numerical equations representing airflow over a body in space," says Parks, a University of Michigan graduate who spent four years working on space shuttle aerodynamics before joining Ford in 1998.Teams from aerodynamics, design and parts engineering worked together, focusing on three areas: the underbody shield, the grille shutters and the "top hat," or exterior body styling that is the most visible portion of the car. The work is expected to result in a 10% reduction in aerodynamic drag, which would lead to a 2.5% fuel efficiency improvement in highway mileage. Highway mileage for the standard 2012 Fusion is 33 miles per gallon, or 36 miles per gallon for the hybrid version. Of the projected drag reduction improvement in the 2013 model, 41% would result from the improved underbody shields, 36% from styling changes and 23% from active grille shutters. These are the five areas of improvement. The intent, in every instance, is to reduce "drag," or resistance, and to expedite the smooth flow of air around the car as it moves forward:
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