DEARBORN (WWJ) — The 2014 Ford Fusion has become the only car in the popular midsize segment to offer rear inflatable safety belts, adding to the sedan’s suite of available safety and driver-assist technologies. This option is also available in the Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi.

Rear inflatable safety belts combine the attributes of safety belts and airbags. The shoulder belt developed for the outboard rear seats contains an airbag. During a crash, sensors determine when the inflatable belt should deploy and signal the belt’s tubular airbag to rapidly inflate with compressed gas.

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“The inflatable belt is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries,” said Srinivasan Sundararajan, safety technical leader with Ford’s research and advanced engineering group. “This is another unique family technology that builds on our safety leadership.”

Ford introduced inflatable rear safety belts on the 2011 Ford Explorer; along with Fusion, the technology is now also available on Ford Flex and Ford Taurus, and Lincoln MKT and Lincoln MKZ. The class-exclusive technology will also be available in Australia when the new Ford Mondeo arrives in that market in late 2014.

In everyday use, inflatable belts operate like conventional safety belts, and are compatible with child car seats and boosters. (Always refer to the child car seat or booster seat manufacturer’s instructions for specific information.) During a crash, the inflatable belt helps distribute crash forces across more of a passenger’s torso than a traditional belt — up to five times more. Spreading the pressure over a larger area helps reduce pressure on the passenger’s chest, and helps control head and neck motion.

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Safety experts acknowledge that the back seat is the safest place for children, and Ford is committed to keeping all vehicle occupants safe.

Ford Fusion owners benefit from a number of available driver-assist technologies. Seventy-two percent of vehicles sold are equipped with Ford’s cross-traffic alert rear sensing technology and 58 percent are equipped with a rear view camera.

Strong demand for Fusion is driving national share gains for Ford, especially in the western and southeastern areas of the United States. In the first half of 2013, Fusion sales rose 17.8 percent to 161,146 vehicles, compared with the same period in 2012.

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Ford builds Fusion at the company’s Hermosillo, Mexico plant and will soon add production at Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock.