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Merry Christmas, Flat Rock.

Ford's assembly plant in the Downriver community just went from the thinnest of ice to sitting pretty. After years of building the slow-selling Mazda 6 sedan and up-and-down Mustang, Ford's new contract with the UAW makes Flat Rock the source of two of the auto industry's most anticipated cars.

The stars are aligned for the all-new Fusion that goes on sale next year to be a massive hit.

The car combines dramatic new looks with technology and fuel economy that seem perfectly suited to the times. Ford provided an advance look at the new Fusion's looks with the Evos concept car it revealed at the recent Frankfurt auto show in Germany.

In addition to head-turning looks, expect the Evos to take Ford's Ecoboost, hybrid and connectivity technologies to the next level.

The sky's the limit for fuel economy and for sales. Watch for the new Fusion to debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

Flat Rock's production will supplement the Hermosillo, Mexico, plant that's already bursting at the seams trying to fill demand for the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ.

The 50th anniversary of the Mustang, arguably Ford's greatest car since the Model T, comes in mid-2014. Few companies know how to celebrate and promote a historic event as well as Ford. Watch for Flat Rock to be at the center of a Mustang love-fest as the anniversary approaches.

The all-new model of the original affordable sport coupe should go into production in time for the anniversary.

The Golden Anniversary Mustang -- model-year 2015 Mustang -- will be an all-new car. It will carry the Pony Car's fuel economy, technology and performance into the 21st Century and introduce a new look for Ford's performance icon.

The new Mustang's platform could also support the much-discussed small sporty Lincoln. Ford refuses to admit that model exists in the product plan, but a handling-oriented car -- probably rear-wheel drive -- is necessary if Lincoln's going to compete with global luxury brands like BMW, Cadillac and Infiniti.

The addition of the fuel-efficient and flexible Transit commercial van gives Ford's Kansas City assembly plant a bright future.

The E-series -- formerly Econoline -- van is on borrowed time, unable to meet upcoming safety, emissions and fuel economy standards. Ford's decision to invest $1 billion to build its big, modern commercial van should give the assembly plant steady work for years.

Don't confuse this truck with the little Transit Connect van Ford already sells. The full-size Transit is the size of a UPS van or Dodge Sprinter. It's one of the leading commercial vans in Europe, where it's a mainstay for purposes ranging from plumbers' trucks to airport shuttles.

Contact MARK PHELAN at [email protected]

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