Last week, Ford (NYSE: F ) unveiled the first of two highly anticipated vehicle redesigns for next calendar year: the 2015 Mustang. Sales of the Mustang have failed to recover since the recession, and changes are needed to revive sales and attract new consumers. The exterior has a more modern and sleek feel to it, but the real innovation that will be critical to return sales to recent highs is what's under the hood.
Enter the EcoBoost
Despite Ford's very successful "One Ford" global plan that refuses to produce vehicles for niche markets, the new Mustang was designed for the American consumer – and the company is banking that the rest of the world also wants it that way. It's the right move, as only 10% of sales are expected to come from outside the U.S.; here at home the forecast is for Mustang sales to reach 100,000 in 2015, the first full year of sales for the redesigned Mustang, according to IHS Automotive.
One reason I believe the Mustang will revive sales here, as well as globally, is that the EcoBoost will provide better fuel economy, which has become increasingly important to consumers -- especially to younger demographics that haven't been buying the last-generation retro-style Mustang. The EcoBoost engine family has been a marketing gold mine for Ford, and its most popular vehicles have sky-high take rates on the turbocharged engine -- 89% for the Escape, 51% for the Fusion, and 42% for F-150s.
Ford's 2015 Mustang will tout the turbocharged engine option for the first time and will receive the all-new 2.3-liter EcoBoost, which is projected to produce class-leading fuel efficiency; official miles per gallon haven't yet been released. Along with the improved fuel economy, the turbocharged engine will produce more than 305 horsepower and 300-plus pound-feet of torque.
Ford's 2.3-liter EcoBoost will be critical to attracting a new consumer to the Mustang here in the U.S., as well as its ability to sell overseas. If it produces a take rate similar to other popular Ford vehicles, it could mean improved margins for the company, as opposed to the base V6 engine, as well as sales surging beyond its 100,000 forecast -- something I wouldn't be surprised to see happen.
In addition to the new EcoBoost option, it's the entire engine lineup flexibility that will be key for the Mustang to hit sales not reached in years -- and no Mustang lineup would be complete without its core 5.0-liter V8 that is projected to push out more than 420 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
Aside from the Mustang's engine flexibility that should score points with multiple demographics, it's full of innovative technologies that are also critical to consumers weighing multiple vehicles for purchase. Ford will offer Intelligent Access with a push-button start for its SYNC and MyKey systems. It will also offer features to help drivers customize their experience behind the wheel, with switches to adjust steering effort, engine response, and stability control settings. It also has advanced driver-assist features, including Blind Spot Information System and cross-traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, and more.
The Mustang doesn't need to reach its peak sales of nearly 550,000 in 1966 to be a success. The Mustang isn't going to sell that way today, and it won't reach the global success of the Focus and Fiesta, which are the best-selling nameplate and subcompact nameplate in the world. The Mustang is Ford's halo car, and that means it needs to remain iconic in American consumers' eyes through movies, classic car shows, and other outlets, which will bring incremental attention to the brand and car buyers into the showroom, where they might buy something else.
In the process of attracting new consumers for the overall Ford brand with its multitude of engine options, innovative features, and sleek new design, it's possible it could be a bigger hit than anticipated. If sales hit 150,000 at some point it would be one of the Mustang's best years in more than three decades, and I think it has a chance.
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