DEARBORN, MI – U.S. sales of the Fusion midsize sedan are about to hit the 200,000-unit mark, a milestone not reached by a Ford passenger car since 2004.

Through November, Fusion sales totaled 196,590, up 21.5% compared with year-ago, according to Ward’s data. With monthly deliveries regularly eclipsing 10,000 units, it’s likely Fusion will end the year above 200,000, which would mark a record sales year for the model.

The last Ford passenger cars to hit the 200,000 bogey were the Ford Taurus sedan and Focus compact car in 2004, which posted annual sales of 248,148 and 208,339, respectively.

The Focus and Taurus have flirted with that benchmark since then. The former tallied 195,823 sales in 2008, while the latter chalked up 196,919 in 2005.

Should Fusion sales reach 200,000, the car would join an elite group, as only a handful of passenger cars have reached that mark this year. The top-selling car through November was the Toyota Camry, with 296,581 deliveries.

Following Camry were the Honda Accord (253,073), Toyota Corolla (244,024), Honda Civic (231,955) and Nissan Altima (206,247).

George Pipas, Ford Motor Co.’s top U.S. sales analyst, says Fusion sales “have never been off the charts, but it’s in that sweet spot that is the most cross-shopped (segment) in the industry.”

The car’s importance to Ford cannot be overstated, he adds, noting the Fusion is the vehicle that has put Ford – a perennial leader in truck sales – on the radar scope of car shoppers.

“I was a doubter we could ever get back into the car business and I was proven wrong,” Pipas tells Ward’s during a recent meeting here.

He says Fusion’s watershed moment was the introduction of the ’10 Fusion hybrid, which boasts a city fuel economy of 41 mpg (5.7 L/100 km).

Ford dealers agree with Pipas’ assessment of the Fusion, with many telling Ward’s the car has been a game-changer for the Blue Oval brand.

“(The) Focus did well, but as Ford’s quality equaled or exceeded the imports, the Fusion, and particularly the 41-mpg hybrid, drew attention to the Ford lineup of cars,” says Ron Boyer, president of Courtesy Ford, Lincoln and Mercury in Portland, OR.

The auto maker’s sales mix is consistent with growing interest in the Fusion, as well as the overall market’s swing away from light trucks.

Cars have accounted for 36.8% of Ford’s deliveries through November, according to Ward’s data. In 2004, the year before the Fusion made its debut, Ford’s sales ratio was 29:71 in favor of light trucks.

Pipas says Ford hopes the recently released Fiesta B-car and soon-to-be-launched, all-new Focus will bolster consumer interest in the auto maker’s cars.

Ford sold 3,473 Fiestas in November, bringing the car’s 11-month sales tally to 18,061, far below totals of key competitors such as the Toyota Yaris with 36,654 and Honda Fit with 49,494.

But Pipas is not deterred by less-than-stellar Fiesta sales out of the gate, noting the car already is making an impact in California, a market where Ford traditionally has struggled.

“In November, 50% of the top Fiesta dealers were in California, and it hasn’t been out that long,” he says. “Fiesta is laying the foundation for growth.”

bpope@wardsauto.com