DETROIT – Ford CEO Alan Mulally says the auto maker is aiming for the No.1 spot in the midsize-sedan segment with the new ’13 Fusion introduced at the North American International Auto Show here.

“The Fusion last year set a sales record, and the nameplate is so popular now. I think it gives us a tremendous opportunity. I think it’s going to be preferred in this space.”

The Fusion ended 2011 with 248,067 deliveries, behind the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, which led the Middle Car Group as defined by WardsAuto.

Mullaly says initial reaction to the redesigned Fusion has been largely positive, and he sees it as a key model in several global markets, including Russia, where it will be introduced “sooner rather than later.,”

“The Russian market is very important, and we have a new joint venture with Sollers,” Mullaly says. “So we’ll be bringing most of our lineup to Russia very soon.”

Ford already has announced plans to introduce the model in most other European nations, where it will carry the Mondeo nameplate.

The ’13 Fusion will come with a variety of powertrain options, including two direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost models, a normally aspirated 4-cyl. engine, as well as hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric versions.

Mulally says Ford expects most of its electrified powertrains to be HEVs, followed by PHEVs.

The auto maker has committed to electrified vehicles with the new Fusion offerings and the C-Max hybrid and PHEV, as well as the Focus full-electric vehicle.

Mulally says hybrids will continue to dominate the EV market in the near term, but foresees progress in the development of advanced batteries in coming years.

“The economics is what drives everything associated with the electrification of vehicles, and the biggest opportunity for more widespread use of different versions of electrification is significant improvements in batteries,” he says.

“We’re making tremendous progress, but I think in the next few years we’ll see improvements in the chemistry to allow us to reduce size, weight and cost.”

Mulally also says Ford expects modest recovery by the global economy in 2012, predicting the U.S. seasonally adjusted annual sales rate will reach 13.5 million-14.5 million units, while the European SAAR will be in the 14 million-15 million range.

“In Europe, they have issues with sovereign debt and the economy has slowed down, but it’s still a very robust market,” he says.

bpope@wardsauto.com