Ford Motor Co. is putting a new face on its NASCAR Nextel Cup entry next year. The automaker is expected to announce as early as this week [Thurs July 14th in Charlotte] that the Ford Fusion will replace the venerable Taurus on North America's most popular racing circuit, said people familiar with the plan. After 20 years, Ford is pulling the plug on Taurus production early in 2006, and NASCAR rules require that race cars be based on showroom models. The Fusion arrives on dealer lots this fall. Fusion will enter the midsize car segment, where the competition dwarfs even the longtime rivalry between Ford and Chevy on the racetrack. In the midsize car market, it's Ford vs. Chevy vs. Toyota vs. Honda vs. Nissan.
Ford designed and engineered the Fusion to be more aggressive and nimble than the Taurus. It is priced starting at $17,995. Ford declined comment on specific plans to replace Taurus, promising to unveil details this week. NASCAR entries are subject to strict dimensional guidelines to ensure competitive racing, but to help sell the vehicles, manufacturers take great care to make certain that the cars on the track retain identifiable design cues.(Detroit News, 7-11-2005)