SANTA MONICA, CA – Ford expects the restyled ’13 Fusion midsize sedan to outsell the current model and also give the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord a run for their money.

Samantha Hoyt, Fusion brand manager, says the new model, slated to hit dealerships this fall, has performed well in internal consumer surveys.

“We ask customers when they trade in a car why they traded it in,” she tells WardsAuto during a media event here. “Forty percent of Accord and 35% of Camry (owners) say, ‘I wanted something different.’”

Based on consumer data, Hoyt says Ford expects conquest rates to be higher than the current model. The current Fusion’s rate stands at 41%, and the new model should raise that to about 50%.

Most current Fusion conquest customers turn in small cross/utility vehicles, such as the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, as well as C-Class cars, such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, she says. There also have been some fullsize sedans, such as the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon.

But for Ford to increase new Fusion sales over the current model, it needs to pursue owners of Japanese vehicles.

“I think the (Fusion’s) styling gives us a real opportunity to (conquest) those looking for something different,” Hoyt says. “We have to keep our core buyers but bring in new ones.”

Fusion deliveries have been on the rise in the U.S. In 2007, Ford sold 147,569 units, increasing to 149,552 in 2009 and jumping to 219,219 in 2010, according WardsAuto data. Last year’s deliveries hit 248,067 and stood at 181,865 through the first eight months of 2012.

However, the Fusion still has some catching up to do in the Middle Car segment, as defined by WardsAuto. The marque placed fourth in its segment in 2011, behind the Accord, Nissan Altima and the best-in-segment Camry, which sold 308,510 units.

“We’ll see if we can outsell (the) Camry and Accord,” Hoyt says. “It’s going to be a dogfight. But we want to grow profitably, so we’re going to build to demand and we’re not going after a sales race.”

Ford is counting on the ’13 Fusion’s sleek styling, a dramatic departure from the outgoing model, to attract buyers. Citing internal research, Hoyt says U.S. consumers who were asked to rank the top-selling midsize sedans based in styling overwhelmingly chose the ’13 Fusion.

Car buyers outside North America also were polled about the Mondeo, which is nearly identical to the Fusion. “It was also No.1 among Japanese owners,” she says. “We were also the first pick in China and Germany in styling.”

In the U.S., Ford is aiming to expand the Fusion’s reach in the Midwest, which has the greatest demand for the car. The East and West Coasts, particularly California, also are key to driving Fusion sales, Hoyt says.

“This car will give us a real chance to improve our position (in California). We have an opportunity there to conquest customers and let people know what the Ford brand is all about.”

The ’13 Fusion will be available with a number of powertrains, including a 1.6L EcoBoost inline 4-cyl.; 2.0L EcoBoost I-4; 2.5L naturally aspirated I-4; and hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid versions.

Ford says the 2.5L I-4 is expected to be the choice of most Fusion buyers, with the two EcoBoost engines as second choice. The ’13 Fusion starts at $21,700 and tops out at $32,200.

bpope@wardsauto.com