Ford sees Mustang as image booster in Europe

The 2015 Mustang will go on sale first in the United States and Canada in the fourth quarter of 2014, followed by China and then Europe sometime in 2015.
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BARCELONA -- Ford Motor expects its Mustang coupe to boost its image in Europe, even though the car will not sell in large numbers.

"The Mustang's formidable reputation for performance and its iconic status as a symbol of freedom and optimism precedes it even in those parts of the world where the car has never been sold," Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell said today in a statement.

Ford plans to sell the Mustang through its European dealer network for the first time in the model's 50-year history to broaden the car's appeal beyond its core American audience.

Ford unveiled the sixth-generation Mustang at simultaneous events here and in Michigan, Shanghai, Sydney, New York and Los Angeles. The car will go on sale first in the United States and Canada in the fourth quarter of 2014, followed by China and then Europe sometime in 2015. Ford will sell both fastback and convertible versions.

Ford has sold more than 9 million Mustangs sold since the car was first launched in 1964. It was the inspiration for the R&B song "Mustang Sally," which was popular in the mid-1960s, and has been featured many times in Hollywood movies.

Technology advances

The latest Mustang gets a more modern design, a more nimble chassis and more efficient engines and transmissions. It uses classic Mustang styling cues such as the bluff reverse-angle front end, but the car has more sophisticated details such as slim high-intensity discharge headlights.

"We want it to say it's quite a technologically advanced car, not a Neanderthal American," Ford's new global head of design, Moray Callum, told Automotive News Europe.

Jacques Brent, Ford's general marketing manager for large cars and SUVs, said Mustang sales in Europe will be modest. "Current global volume for Mustang is around 106,000. We're expecting some growth but we haven't banked on doubling the volume or anything like that," he said. "It's going to be relatively niche."

The Mustang will get a new 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo EcoBoost engine that will make more than 309 hp. A 5-0-liter V-8 engine will also be offered in Europe, but not the entry 3.7-liter V-6. The car will also come with independent rear suspension as standard for the first time.

The focus on technology was important to highlight its role as "a billboard for what Ford is capable of," Brent said. "This car showcases all the technologies that exist in the Ford range. Things like the functionality around Sync and the performance and fuel economy of EcoBoost will be a large portion of the messaging," he said.

Affordable pricing

Ford has not yet released prices for the Mustang, but Brent said the gap between Ford's current range and the Mustang will be less than equivalent Chevrolet muscle cars offered by General Motors.

The new Corvette Stingray starts at 69,990 euros ($94,938) in Germany, while the V-8 powered Chevrolet Camaro will start at 39,990 euros for the coupe and 44,990 euros for the convertible when they go on sale at the end of the year.

Brent said the Mustang will appeal to European customers who drive high-performance volume cars such as the Fiesta ST subcompact and Focus ST compact but want to "move up."

The new Mustang has the same wheelbase as the current model but is 38mm lower and 40mm wider.

As with the current car, the new Mustang will be built in Ford's Flat Rock plant in Michigan. The plant now runs on two shifts, but that can be increased to three shifts if demand increases significantly, Ford said.

Ford expects only about 10 percent of the Mustangs to be sold overseas. Outside North America, IHS Automotive estimates the biggest markets for the new Mustang will be Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, the Philippines, Brazil, South Korea, France and the United Kingdom.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at nick.gibbs@btinternet.com.

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