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Fuel Efficiency a Focus for Ford, Nissan at Auto Show

Monday, 9 Jan 2012 | 3:51 PM ET

Ford Motor unveiled the latest model of its best-selling Fusion — a key part of the automaker's growth strategy.

Ford Fusion
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Ford Fusion

The gasoline-powered Fusion also will be available in a plug-in hybrid version, Ford CEO Alan Mulally told CNBC's Phil LeBeau at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

"From the consumer point of view, they have the power of the choice," Mulally says.

"From Ford's point of view, we'll make it on the same production line. So whether you want a petrol, a hybrid, or a plug-in hybrid just like the Focus, then we can match the production to the real demand," he says.

Amid the technology push, some Wall Street analysts have expressed skepticism about Ford's ability to boost profits at the same pace as in the past. Mulally says Ford will grow from around 5.3 million vehicles to around 8 million vehicles.

Hyundai, meanwhile, is experiencing peak sales and production is near capacity in the U.S. John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America acting president and CEO, says he forecasts small incremental production gains at existing U.S. plants to keep pace with sales.

NissanMotorunveiled its E-NV200, an electric compact van — part of Nissan's strategy to capture market share in the growing electric-car market.

Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosen reiterated his forecast that Nissan would reach 10 percent of industry sales by 2020 with the help of an electric car-focused strategy. “I stick with my forecast: 10 percent of the market in 2020," says Ghosen.

Focusing on the auto sector more broadly, Fiat & Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is optimistic.

"It's a different world. It's like a throwback to the '90s," Marchionne told CNBC's Phil LeBeau in Detroit. "This is the kind of atmosphere we used to have at the Detroit Auto Show when things were going well."

The upbeat mood is in sharp contrast to Detroit shows after the 2008 global financial crisis. "We're all pushing. It's a great environment to be in," Marchionne says.

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