DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co., losing a heated sales battle with Chevrolet's new Camaro, said today that its 2011 Mustang with an upgraded V-6 engine will be the first sports car with more than 300 hp with a highway fuel economy rating above 30 mpg.
Ford said the 305-hp 2011 Mustang 3.7-liter V-6 with a six-speed automatic transmission was certified by the EPA this week at 31 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city.
The 2011 mode goes on sale this spring. Ford says it has about 11,000 dealer orders for the Mustang.
Jim Hall, a longtime industry consultant with 2953 Analytics in suburban Detroit, said the EPA certification of a 300-hp engine that tops 30 mpg is a first.
The Chevrolet Camaro, the Mustang's top rival, is equipped with a 3.6 liter V-6 rated at 304 hp and 29 mpg on the highway. The Lexus RX 450h hybrid with a 3.5-liter V-6 generates 295 hp and is rated at 32 mpg city/ 28 highway.
The Camaro has outsold the Mustang for nine straight months. In February, GM sold 6,482 Camaros while Ford sold 5,115 Mustangs.
Ford, however, outsold GM on an overall basis in February, the first time it had done so since 1998.
Muscle car wars
The muscle car segment has been a historically important battleground for Detroit automakers and one of the only segments -- along with full size trucks and SUVs -- where import brands have not made significant headway.
Ford plans to tout the 2011 Mustang's improved fuel economy during a marketing blitz when the new model reaches dealerships this spring. Ford executives began their pitch to reporters today.
“At no other time in Mustang's history -- for that matter, in automotive history -- have we been able to talk about 305 horsepower and 31 mpg. The Mustang truly is a no-compromises sports car,” Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development, said in a statement.
The Mustang with the standard six-speed manual transmission is rated at 30 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city.
This 3.7-liter engine replaces a 4.0-liter, 210-hp engine rated at 24 mpg on the highway.
Amy Marentic, marketing manager for Ford's cars and crossovers, said the automaker's research has shown that fuel economy is one of the major reasons that consumers rule out buying a Mustang.
The marketing campaign Ford will roll out to support the launch of the new Mustang will emphasize improvements in the fuel economy and interior of the sports car, she said.
"The Mustang is a very emotional car but we're going to give people a rational reason to purchase," she said.
Shawn Wright, Philip Nussel and Reuters contributed to this report