Cars and Concepts

Ford Mustang rolls into Geneva with glow

Geneva is the beachhead in Ford's push to win European consumers over with the original pony car. Photo credit: DAVE GUILFORD

GENEVA -- If you couldn't tell by the two 1965 Mustang convertibles and the display of diecast Mustang models outside Ford's press reception on the eve of the Geneva auto show press days …

Or the Mustang keychains Ford's guests received …

And if the bold yellow 2015 Mustang GT prototype sitting in the middle of the party didn't clue you in…

Ford executives were glad to make it clear: Geneva is the beachhead for the push to win European consumers over with the original pony car.

Ford marketing chief Jim Farley told assembled journalists how he rebuilt a Mustang when he was 15, then drove it across the United States without a driver's license -- "much to the surprise of my parents."

Farley also showed a 20-minute highlight reel from the upcoming film, "Need for Speed," which features a Mustang as the "hero car." Elsewhere, video clips from "Bullitt" played. And "Mustang Sally" was part of the music mix.

You get the picture: Total Mustang saturation.

But that's what Ford needs, given European buyers coolness in the past to certain legendary U.S. nameplates that have struggled to make headway here.

Europeans love fine cars -- if they can handle twisty roads with panache and navigate tight streets that date back far before the automotive era.

In a brief conversation, COO Mark Fields said the company doesn't expect U.S.-level sales volumes for the Mustang in Europe, where it will roll out in the first half of 2015. But they do foresee it becoming an effective niche car that adds some glow to Ford's image.

Product changes like the 2015 model's independent rear suspension and sleeker, more aerodynamic shape will make the Mustang more attractive to European drivers, Fields said. And there are a number of Mustang owner clubs throughout Europe, giving Ford a base to work from.

The challenge is to go beyond hard-core fans to the racing and driving enthusiasts whose idea of a great car is based on Formula One racing, not dragstrips. Might Ford enter some Mustang teams in some racing series that appeal to Europeans?

"You never know," Fields said with a grin.

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