Friday, March 30, 2012

Game Changer: Ford Fusion 2013 Sedan

It's an open secret now that I am biased when it comes to Ford Motor Company. This is because I'm a shareholder of the company and, as a result, have been following its product development and sales trends closely for the past 3 years. I've been ecstatic with the leadership of Allen Mullaly as Ford's CEO, especially with the re-dedication to the core brand and its recent lineup of product offerings.

The recent Ford Fiesta, Focus, and the TransitConnect represent the shift of Ford's strategy away from the traditional American car model -- the so-called gas-guzzlers and large-sized vehicles. In addition to the appealing looks (the Focus in particular looks great), these vehicles are very fuel-efficient. Ford also took a gamble by attempting to streamline the vehicles chassis for its models across the different geographies, whereby the Ford Focus, for example, is often referred to as the "Global Focus". From a financial perspective, the immediate advantage is lower development costs as all the geographies now share a single chassis that the company can build and market to customers.

I am also a fan of the TransitConnect and happy to see the vehicle more frequently on the roads. It seems custom-built for small businesses, a market segment seemingly under-served by the competition. The TransitConnect marked the hybrid of the truck and the mini-van -- resulting in something businesses can acquire cheaply and use for their needs. Ford essentially defined a new lucrative market for itself. But to me, the biggest star has just been announced by Ford at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show back this January. The unveiling of the Ford Fusion 2013.

Ford's Cash Cow for Years to Come...

You can read more about the different configurations here at Autoblog. The quick and dirty is that new Fusion combines the styling of the luxury brands like Audi and even Aston Martin, with the integration of new technologies -- all into a package that should cost around $25,000. It will come in a myriad of different flavors, ranging from diesel to hybrid to electric. You can see that Ford is betting big on the success of this model...

What gets me excited is the sheet positive reception garnered from this initial preview. Heck, I want to buy one too! One would assume the car is a luxury brand at first sight: the styling is aggressive, spacious, but also extremely elegant. The key selling point is mixing all these factors into an affordable package. In short, this model could be disruptive to the mid-size sedan segment as customers rich and poor alike will forgo their "natural" price points and converge on the Ford Fusion 2013. Why pay $50,000 for an Audi when you get something comparable in style for half the price? The Audi-loyalists will balk at this suggestion but I think for the general populace, my hypothesis will prove to be true.

My only gripe with the model is, paradoxically, its resemblance to the super luxury brands like Aston Martin. After the "love at first sight" moment, the Fusion 2013 seems almost trying too hard to imitate its much more expensive cousins. The net effect is a sense of "phoneyness", a visible element of forgery that makes those who value authenticity to cringe at its sight. It's akin to committing conscious deceit. Oftentimes when I see a Nissan Z, I laugh a little as the vehicle's styling resembles so closely to the Porsche that it's almost....sad. I think the owner of these vehicles are those forced to settle because they can't afford the real thing. The same, I fear will happen to this upcoming addition to the Ford lineup.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movie Quote: 500 Days of Summer

[Allow me to preface this blog post by announcing my return to the world of blogging. My most recent hiatus was long and unexpected, but I realized recently how much fun it was to blog. Blogging also helps me retain my writing skills which, in my line of work, I don't use too often.]

So.....500 Days of Summer. Most of us have seen it (I'm sure). It was a "comedy drama film" (so says Wikipedia) that was released in 2009 and took the world by storm. Okay. Maybe not by storm, but it certainty was a surprisingly popular film that many critics considered their vaulted Movie of the Year award. The plot was about the beginning and end of a relationship between 2 young professionals, starred by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Joseph plays the character of Tom, a trained architect who works as an artist at a greeting card company; Zooey plays Summer, the new executive assistant to Tom's boss. 

Long story made short: they meet, like each other but Summer is non-committal and eventually breaks up with Tom. Tom falls into a depression, made worse when he learns that Summer quickly becomes engaged to another. Her reason is quite the kicker, "[I was sure with him] what I was never sure with you". Tom goes through this rhapsody of melancholy before finally sucking it up, quitting his job at the greeting card company, and returning to pursue his passion of becoming an architect. The film ends as he sets up a date with a girl named Autumn. Deja vu time, Tom?

I'm not a fan of the plot, because I feel it's depressing and doesn't really go anywhere. Tom isn't really enlightened through his experiences with Summer. It's not terrible, but not jaw-dropping either. However, I must admit that the acting by Joseph and Zooey is superb. What I did also like though, was one scene from the film in which the male characters are asked (in a mock-interview) to describe the girl of their dreams. The responses are all pretty predictable until it comes to the character of Paul, a level-headed person who has a girlfriend named Robin. Below is his long-winded but quite remarkable answer:

"I guess I just got lucky, um.. We met in Elementary School, in 7th grade we had the same class schedule, and we just clicked. You know, technically, the girl of my dreams would probably have like, a really bodacious rack, you know  probably different hair.. and yeah, you know she'd probably be a little more into sports. But, truthfully, Robin's better. Robin's better than the girl of my dreams. She's real."

What makes his response remarkable is the simplicity-yet-truthfulness behind his answer. While everyone else names qualities they idealize about for their significant other, in the end, reality is superior to the greatest fantasy one can conjure. Paul acknowledges that Robin, his girlfriend, isn't perfect...or at least could be more perfect by having the "bodacious rack" and "different color of hair". But he also takes her as a whole package, instead of trying to break her down into parts. It's the quintessential example of synergy: to Tom, Robin is desirable and attractive because of all her qualities summed up and personified together. 

Oftentimes the reason we are drawn to others is not because of their perfection in our eyes, but by their perceived flaws that makes them more like us, more....human. It's being able to like someone in spite of their imperfections, celebrating together their successes and empathizing in their failures. Because in the end, it is the experiences we have together --and not mere physical traits-- that bond one person to another. 

Some may view Paul's response as someone who settled, but I don't believe so. We all have different preferences and personal tastes, therefore it is incredibly patronizing to downplay someone else's choice. (Yes, I know Paul is a fictional character). The truth is that we don't really know what we want in a significant other. We may have vague ideas like their looks and personality, but one cannot measure things like chemistry -- even less on their whole being. While men may claim to like women like Jessica Alba and Sofia Vergara and women for the George Cloneys and Brad Pitts of the world, we like them mainly for their physical looks. Ultimately we all know that beauty cannot transcend time. As Paul says so well, the girl of my dreams is the one who is real.