Despite Ford’s new-found global aspirations for its iconic pony car, the 2015 Mustang that was revealed last Thursday in six cities on four continents remains a quintessentially American car.
Ford Motor Co. executives unveiled the sixth-generation, 50th-anniversary Mustang simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Barcelona, Spain; Sydney, Australia; and Dearborn, Mich.
The Mustang has been a mostly U.S. proposition since it rolled onto the stage at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Through its history, the Mustang’s reputation has spread beyond the United States as a symbol of American design and automotive culture.
Ford aims to capitalize on the Mustang’s name recognition and make it a halo car to draw attention to the other vehicles in Ford’s lineup, which has become global under CEO Alan Mulally’s One Ford plan.
The new car is lower, wider and sleeker than its predecessor, but still has the same broad shoulders and big, bold front end. Those who feared Ford might shrink the Mustang for narrow European roads can rest easy. This horse still has plenty of brawn.
“We find globally that everyone wants that piece of Americana,” says Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. “We designed a Mustang and decided to take it global. We did not design a global Mustang.”
That means no customer clinics in Europe or China, Pericak says: “Even in America, we don’t design a Mustang through research. We know what a Mustang needs to look like.”
It’s appropriate the 2015 Mustang will go on sale first in the United States and Canada in the fourth quarter of 2014, followed by China and then Europe sometime in 2015. Ford will sell both fastback and convertible versions. The company has not discussed pricing.
“People all over the world have been waiting for this,” Mulally said in New York. “Without One Ford we couldn’t have done it.”
What separates this Mustang from its predecessor is the dramatically upgraded interior and the availability of some high-tech features, the kinds of systems Ford has introduced in its bid to transform itself into an industry technology leader.
Those include the latest version of the MyFord Touch infotainment system and a new 2.3-liter turbocharged engine, the latest member of Ford’s EcoBoost engine family. As a concession to global tastes, the new Mustang will get an independent rear suspension, beefed up brakes and paddle shifters.
In the United States, where the Mustang has trailed the Chevrolet Camaro in sales for several years, volume is forecast to hit nearly 100,000 units in 2015, its first full year on the market, IHS Automotive says.
U.S. deliveries have slipped 8 percent this year to 66,083 units through November, and annual sales haven’t topped 100,000 since 2007. Jeff Schuster, an analyst with research firm LMC Automotive, expects the redesign to help Mustang overtake the Camaro in U.S. sales next year. U.S. Camaro sales have dropped 4 percent this year but still top Mustang by 4,093 units through November.
Ford expects only about 10 percent of the Mustangs made in Flat Rock, Mich., to be sold overseas. That translates to total sales outside of the core U.S. and Canadian markets of about 10,000 or less, but the company says it isn’t looking for the Mustang to rack up Fusion-style volumes.
Outside North America, IHS Automotive estimates the biggest markets for the new Mustang will be Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, the Philippines, Brazil, South Korea, France and the United Kingdom.
Before Ford went global with the Mustang, it needed to know exactly who its customers would be. Ford knew where to find those potential customers. Although the Mustang has been sold mainly in North America through its history, there are 200 Mustang owners clubs on five continents. Some of them are in unlikely places — Iceland, for example.
Steve Ling, Ford’s U.S. car marketing manager, said Ford had to ask some fundamental questions: “Who are these people? What is it they want first and foremost? Actually it’s not that different from what U.S. Mustang buyers want. They value freedom, and not just in the U.S. It is a lifestyle vehicle. It’s not a commuter A to B vehicle.”
People still want a “visceral driving experience,” he says. “If you had a crappy day at work, and go down to the parking lot and turn the key, it’s an instant vacation.”
Some wanted more than just thrills. “The newer customers said they wanted the latest technology,” Ling says.