Two important future European models are on display at the Detroit show this week, but both are incognito because each is wearing its North American nameplate.
The Ford Fusion sedan that debuted here will arrive in Europe next year as the new-generation Mondeo. The Buick Encore small SUV will debut in Europe in late 2012 as the Opel Mokka.
Why are these cars important? Both were spawned from global architectures that are crucial to the future success of their automakers as they try to create models that will be basically the same underneath yet still appeal to buyers all over the world.
For Ford, the Fusion is the first mid-size sedan to result from its One Ford – a.k.a. “one world – one car” strategy. The future Mondeo, Ford’s European flagship, features a design that I like a lot because it is eye-catching and bold.
People are already talking about the look, especially the front end, which some think borrows too generously from former Ford subsidiary Aston Martin. For instance, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said during this week’s Automotive News World Congress in Detroit: “Now I know why Ford sold Aston Martin: to crib the design for the Fusion without feeling bad.”
GM luxury brand Buick hopes its Encore will carve out a new market niche in the United States: small premium crossover. In Europe, the niche is already established, so the new Opel Mokka will compete against cars such as the Skoda Yeti, Nissan Juke and maybe even steal some sales from the Audi Q3 and Mini Countryman.
Opel will make small tweaks to the Encore and then slap on its lightning bolt badge and the Mokka nameplate in time to show the car at the Geneva auto show in March.
The Mokka has the potential to give Opel a sales boost -- as well as an image boost -- as long at the automaker avoids the mistakes it made with the Antara medium SUV. The first generation of the Mokka's bigger brother was a disappointment because off its cheap interior and poor ride and handling.