DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. has begun testing the first prototype of the right-hand-drive Mustang pony car.
Ford said today its engineers recently finished building the handmade prototype, which will be used in various developmental tests in coming months.
The redesigned 2015 Mustang was developed to sell more widely in global markets for the first time. Ford plans to market right-hand-drive Mustangs in 25 markets including the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa.
Until now, the Mustang has been a left-hand-drive vehicle only, designed and manufactured primarily to sell in its home North American market.
The first right-hand-drive Mustangs will go on sale sometime in the first half of next year after the home-market launch this fall. All Mustangs will be made in Ford’s Flat Rock, Mich., assembly plant.
The right-hand-drive version is part of Ford’s effort to globalize its iconic pony car. Ford now will sell the Mustang in more than 120 countries, including 56 new left-hand-drive markets and 25 right-hand-drive countries.
Mustangs have been sold in small numbers outside the U.S. since the car debuted in 1964 -- about 161,000 cars in total. But the only right-hand-drive versions were created by do-it-yourself enthusiasts using often-expensive conversion kits.
Ford says about 4,000 Mustangs were sold in 35 countries outside North America last year including the United Arab Emirates, Chile and the Philippines.
For the 50th anniversary of its launch, Ford redesigned the Mustang with features that would make it more appealing to customers around the world. Among those are an independent rear suspension and a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine.