David Buzo has inside knowledge of the Ford Edge. He heads Ford's metal stamping plant in Hamburg, which makes 80 percent of the car's body.
But his take on the new "crossover" vehicle echoes what mainstream reviewers are saying.
"It handles like a car but has the room of an SUV," he said -- having driven his son to North Carolina for what he hopes is a final year of college. "And the gas mileage is in-between."
On Wednesday his plant held a celebration to mark the success of the Edge, which is among the top sellers in the booming crossover market, according to industry analysts.
With its sister vehicle the Lincoln MKX, Edge is replacing SUVs and minivans in many driveways since it started rolling off the assembly line in Oakville, Ont., last fall.
Crossovers combine features of SUVs, minivans and sedans. Edge, for example, has room for five people plus 32 cubic feet of cargo space behind them; optional all-wheel drive, and a car-like ride on the Fusion platform.
Ford managers and dealers gathered at the stamping plant, calling the product a "hometown hero" that is delivering a cargo of jobs.
"The Edge is born here," shouts an 80-foot tall banner recently hung on the side of the plant facing Route 5. "The pride and joy of Buffalo."
Local buyers took 210 of the vehicles in June, and volume has grown steadily month over month, said Chuck Basil, chairman of the regional Ford dealer group.
With sticker prices of $25,320 to $30,720, the Edge is part of a phenomenon that has doubled sales in the crossover segment from a year ago. Nationally the Edge and MKX sold close to 16,000 copies last month.
"You are getting a lot of movement from minivans and traditional truck-based SUV's" said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at J.D. Power and Associates in Michigan.
The Edge was the top seller among midsize, non-luxury crossovers in June, and the No. 2 seller for the first six months of the year, behind Toyota's Highlander, he said. The segment as defined by J.D. Power includes 15 vehicles.
Favorable reviews are helping propel the Edge. Power gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars for both performance and quality design. Edmunds, the influential car guide, says it handles better than peers like the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe and Highlander, although its interior isn't as refined.
Edge gets 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway, according to federal figures. Weighing in at a little over two tons, Edge gets poor marks from some reviewers on its acceleration and braking.
Buyers in Western New York are opting for option-laden versions, with all-wheel drive for winter conditions. "People think 'It's a bargain -- put everything on it,' " said John Wabick, vice president of the West Herr group.
"I think the SUV has maybe passed its time -- this is the next generation," he said. "We can't keep them in inventory."
Inside the stamping plant, Ford's new $65 million press churns out front fenders for the Edge and MKX. The machine's robot arms place squares of sheet metal under massive descending pistons. The metal molds like putty at the touch of the press, over and over -- the 18,000 parts a day.
"This line is critical to our future," said Steven J. Golovin, vice president of United Auto Workers Local 897. "It helps keep [production] volume in the plant."
The Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Marquis, long the plant's mainstay, isn't expected to stay in production forever.
The Edge/MKX accounts for about 30 percent of the work at the 900-job stamping plant in terms of labor hours, Buzo said.
An older press is being refurbished to handle parts for another new vehicle, the Ford Flex "people mover" crossover coming next spring. Whether that will mean more jobs at the plant or job stability is hard to predict, Buzo said.