The Ford Fusion has been named the 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year. It was the first magazine to offer such an award -- the initial one was in 1949 -- and it's still considered the biggest of the big, or at least, the one that the general public is most likely to recognize. And I think they hit the nail on the head with this one.
It went up against some pretty big guns, including vehicles I think were equally worthy of the crown -- Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Mazda3 -- and even some high-end stuff that's among the better cars I've driven, like the BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Porsche Panamera.
A lowly Ford Fusion defeating the mighty Panamera, or the zippy Z4? The enthusiasts are tearing out their hair, and tearing up their subscriptions even as we speak. But they miss the point. Motor Trend -- and other awarding bodies that get it right -- doesn't necessarily crown a car because it's the best one in the batch. Instead, it's the car that gets it right for its intended audience. In many cases, that's an audience that has no idea what's going on under the hood, but needs a car that'll handle the job.
Motor Trend noted that the Fusion comes in a wide assortment of models, gets good fuel economy, offers a hybrid, has lots of passenger and cargo space, and can be ordered with higher-end options if desired.
Sure, the fit-and-finish and material quality don't come close to BMW or Mercedes. It'll still be getting its front wheels over the start line when the Panamera's at the finish. But that means nothing to someone whose car budget taps out at $18,000 -- and there are a lot of people whose car budget taps out at $18,000.
Auto companies listen to journalists, but they sell cars to average buyers. This time around, the journalists listened to the average buyers, too.