DETROIT -- Why would Ford go to so much trouble and expense to redesign and globalize its only remaining rear-wheel-drive car when it hasn't even cracked the 100,000 sales mark since 2007?
Here are a few reasons:
Competition from the Chevy Camaro: The 2015 Mustang may have aspirations of going up against Porsches and BMWs on the German Autobahn with its new 155-mph top speed. But Ford knows the overwhelming majority of sales still will be in the United States, where traditional rivalries still rule. That means the Chevrolet Camaro first and foremost. The Camaro has held an edge over the Mustang since 2010 and leads 75,552 to 71,459 through November.
"If you look at the Camaro and how successful it has been in sales, it's time to take it up a notch for Ford," says Dave Sullivan, analyst for AutoPacific.
That includes adding features such as independent rear suspension, which Camaro has, updating the design for a younger crowd and offering more creature comforts and technology. The car arrives in dealerships next fall, and IHS Automotive predicts it will overtake the Camaro in sales in 2015. The forecast calls for modest sales in countries outside North America, with Germany being the largest new market.
Heart and soul of a brand: Ford has sold about 9 million Mustangs since a teacher named Gail Wise of Park Ridge, Ill., bought the first car sold at retail -- a baby blue convertible from Johnson Ford in Cicero, Ill., in the spring of 1964. The Mustang has been produced continuously since then while some rivals, such as the Camaro, have come and gone and come again. The only other Ford that can make that longevity claim is the F-150 pickup.
"Mustang cuts to the heart and soul of Ford Motor Co.," said Mark Fields, Ford COO, speaking to a crowd of several hundred people at Mustang unveiling festivities here last week. "It represents our company at its best."