CHICAGO -- Ford Motor Co.'s new 650-hp Shelby GT500 Mustang convertible is the sort of expensive, roaring beast that American motor enthusiasts love. But Ford planners are now contemplating letting other markets around the world show some Mustang love.
Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's executive director of global product programs, says the company believes the brawny GT500 has potential in China and Brazil, among other markets.
"The China market is the largest market in the world, and we believe there's room for a product like this," Thai-Tang said after unveiling the car in Chicago.
The move would be a big change for Ford. The GT500 is part of Ford's SVT, or Special Vehicle Team, business, a line of performance-enhanced models, like the F-150 Raptor pickup. It has been an exclusively North American program, largely because they are big-horsepower vehicles.
But Thai-Tang, whose job includes the SVT operation, says Ford's outlook is changing now that it has adopted a one-world "one-Ford" approach to design.
"We see a lot of gray-market Mustangs in all areas of the world," he said. "As we execute our one-Ford strategy, we're going to look at the global viability of Mustang in other markets."
Production of the GT500 will begin this summer in Flat Rock, Mich., using a 5.8-liter supercharged V-8 aluminum-block engine that Ford says is "the most powerful production V-8 in the world." The car promises 650 hp and 600 pounds-feet of torque.
Other enhancements include a new supercharger and camshaft, a new carbon fiber driveshaft and a performance-class clutch, transmission and axle.
Thai-Tang declined to reveal the planned sticker price for the car. Current GT models start at around $50,000.
"As I travel around the world, I'm just amazed at how many people come up and talk to me about the Mustang, whether it's Japan or Brazil," he said. "Employees in Brazil told me they joined Ford because of the Mustang, even though we've never sold a Mustang in Brazil. So there's a real halo to consider here."