By Deepa Seetharaman and Samuel Shen
DEARBORN, Mich./SHANGHAI Dec 5 Ford Motor Co
unveiled its 50th anniversary Mustang sports car in its
first global launch on Thursday, with a sleek redesign aimed at
enhancing the brand's status outside the United States.
The second-largest U.S. automaker is betting that upscale
touches will appeal to buyers in Europe and Asia, where the pony
car will be sold for the first time in 2015. The new model
features the trapezoid front grille that Ford has used to lend a
more premium look its other global models.
"This was a chance to bring Mustang and actually lift the
rest of the brand up with it," Ford's global design chief J Mays
said on Thursday. The design change "helps us tie this car to
the rest of the vehicles that we sell," he added.
The Mustang accounted for just 3 percent of Ford's U.S.
sales during the first 11 months of the year, but it has an
outsized effect on shaping the perceptions of Ford worldwide,
Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said.
Fields, Chief Executive Alan Mulally and other top Ford
executives unveiled the Mustang in six cities: Dearborn,
Michigan, Shanghai, Sydney, Barcelona, New York and Los Angeles.
The 2015 Mustang will go on sale in the United States next
fall. It will be sold in Europe in the first half of 2015 and in
Asia in the second half.
The global Mustang comes as Ford seeks to build its brand
outside North America. Dave Schoch, head of Ford's Asia-Pacific
operations, said the Mustang would "enhance" the Ford brand in
China, where the company is starting to gain ground after a slow
A new influx of buyers could also help Ford increase sales
of its other high-performance and high-margin models, such as
the Focus ST, in Europe, analysts said.
"When you work on an icon of the company, it's a mixture of
tremendous pride and honor and a little bit of angst because
there's a lot of responsibility," said Fields, who is widely
expected to succeed Mulally as CEO in the future.
NO MORE HOCKEY STICK
Mays said designers were careful not to water down the
"American-ness" of the Mustang in crafting the car's new look.
For example, the new Mustang will retain the "tri-bar" tail
lights, a trademark feature since the 1960s.
But designers also eliminated the traditional "fake scoops,"
or cutouts, on Mustang's sides. Also gone is the hockey
stick-like graphic on the lower section of the doors.
The new Mustang sits about 1.5 inches lower than the
outgoing model, said Mays, who will retire from Ford on Jan. 1.
It has a new suspension system and will be offered with three
powertrain options, including a 2.3 liter turbocharged engine.
But the Mustang's new look could alienate some enthusiasts.
Leaked images of the car this week drew mixed responses from
"If I were planning the next Mustang today, I'd try to
recreate a low-priced sports car that was more exciting than the
Focus and would appeal to younger buyers," said Hal Sperlich,
the chief architect of the original Ford Mustang.
"I'm not sure this will sell well in Europe, where gasoline
is close to 10 bucks a gallon," he said.
The original Mustang was introduced at the New York World's
Fair on April 17, 1964, to attract young Americans. Fields, then
3 years old, attended the event with his parents, he said.
The Mustang was the inspiration for the R&B song "Mustang
Sally," which was popular in the mid-1960s, and has been
featured in Hollywood movies. Steve McQueen, for instance,
famously drove a dark green Mustang in the 1968 film "Bullitt."
American sports cars have typically struggled to gain an
audience abroad. But speaking to reporters in Shanghai, Schoch
brushed aside those concerns.
"I used to think the same thing, but when you go out and
talk to customers, and the answer (question?) is: why don't you
bring the Mustang?" he told reporters in Shanghai.
"As we get greater awareness of the product in China, I
believe more people will come into our show room," he said.
"It's going to be a big drawing factor of getting people in."