Did Ford Motor Company Mess Up the New Mustang?

It's all-new, and it's still fast -- but it's not lighter or more fuel-efficient. Did Ford make a mistake with the 2015 Mustang? Source: Ford.

Is Ford (NYSE: F  ) taking a bigger risk than we thought with the all-new 2015 Mustang?

When the new Mustang was first unveiled last December, it appeared the automaker had played it safe. Sure, the styling had evolved, but not too far. The interior was nicer, but still familiar. 

From powertrains to colors to options packages, the message seemed pretty clear: The new Mustang is improved in a lot of ways, but it isn't really different.

But now that we've learned more about the new pony, we're starting to hear complaints from a few quarters: It's bigger. It's heavier. It's less fuel-efficient.

Has Ford made a mistake here? 

Other Fords are losing weight, but the Mustang didn't
It's true that the 2015 Mustang has gained a little bit of weight over its predecessor. Ford says the weight gain comes mostly from additions such as the all-new independent rear suspension and larger brakes, among other things.

We're not talking hundreds of pounds here: A 2015 Mustang coupe with the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine weighs just six pounds more than a 2014 Mustang coupe with the base V6.  Other models gained more, but the increases are still fairly modest. The biggest gain, 87 pounds, comes in GT models equipped with manual transmission. 

The all-new 2015 Mustang went into production in Flat Rock, Michigan, this week. Source: Ford.

But "heavier" is never an advantage with a performance-oriented car such as the Mustang. All things being equal, a lighter car will accelerate faster and handle better. 

And Ford is emphasizing weight reduction in other models -- in a big way. Consider Ford's other major debut this year, the all-new F-150 pickup. The 2015 F-150 is considerably lighter than the truck it replaces, thanks to the use of aluminum body panels. It's expected to get significantly better mileage than the outgoing truck.

So why didn't Ford take more dramatic steps to reduce the Mustang's weight? Probably because executives didn't want the Mustang to change much.

Why Ford was reluctant to make big changes to the Mustang
Here's the biggest change for the new Mustang: Unlike the current version, and all past Mustangs, this 2015 model is a global product. 

Ford plans to sell its new pony in Europe, China, Australia, and many other parts of the world, not as a high-priced exotic import, but as a regular part of the company's lineup.

That's new. And the company's decision to make the car a global model led to some discussion: What kind of Mustang should we roll out to the world? 

The new Mustang's interior looks good, and includes thoughtful touches and premium materials, while sticking to the classic Mustang formula. Source: Ford.

I've heard that Ford originally planned to make the new Mustang much smaller in order to make it more appealing abroad. By European standards at least, the Mustang is a pretty big car. A smaller Mustang would surely have been lighter, with better fuel-economy numbers.

But last December, when the new Mustang was unveiled, then-CEO Alan Mulally told me that Ford's research had shown that foreign buyers didn't want a different, smaller Mustang.  They wanted the Mustang, just as Americans have come to know it, in all of its rowdy, V8-powered glory. They didn't want the product to change. (And needless to say, neither did the Mustang's many American fans.)

So Ford shifted gears and created a new Mustang that improves on the old model by being faster, more refined, and more comfortable, but doesn't really change the formula.

I suspect that will turn out to be the right approach. But it means the new Mustang isn't lighter, it's not smaller, and it doesn't get better fuel economy.

Do you think that was the right move? Scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts.


Read/Post Comments (36) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 5:15 PM, Jason87467 wrote:

    The Camaro will blow away the Mustang in any form or shape. So why does it matter?

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 6:23 PM, shawnm64 wrote:

    No 1 reading this cares about a piece of junk government motors camaro !

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 6:57 PM, HemiCat wrote:

    Every car that every manufacturer makes is up for scrutiny. Whether it's too retro, too futuristic, too familiar, or whatever, only time will tell. The new Challenger looks like the old ones but is the size of a 2-door Charger. So what; it's selling. The Camaro looks something like it's early models but is also larger. So what, It's selling! Now comes the only pony car to continue, sometimes successful and sometimes failing (I owned a '74 Pintostang), but nonetheless, this car has outlasted all other comers. Give Ford their due. Whether the new 'Stang is a success or not, it will sell. It is now a world car. Why wouldn't it?

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 8:18 PM, Rrothenberger wrote:

    Maybe Jason, but the Camero is just butt ugly. Stang is so much cooler and has always been.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 8:21 PM, bcweir wrote:

    Jason87467:

    Here's three things Mustang's "competitors" can never claim:

    1) The Mustang is the ORIGINAL ponycar. This car wrote the book on what a ponycar should be. Rather than putting a huge motor inside an already overweight vehicle, Ford put a 289 inside a smaller, lightweight vehicle with a backseat both to make it more practical and more affordable. A long hood, short rear deck, and a fastback roofline. The Mustang INVENTED this in an afFORDable coupe.

    2) The Mustang is the OLDEST, CONTINUOUSLY PRODUCED musclecar in the world. It didn't bail on the car after the 2002 model year (I'm talking to YOU, GM), and it didn't take a 30 year hiatus or slap the nameplate on a Mitsubishi (talking to you Chrysler) or a FWD K-car.

    3) GM has at times had the edge on styling, but the interior has always looked like it was designed by a child with a box of crayons. Have you ever sat inside a 3rd-gen F-body? The driving position is horrible. I couldn't even see over the dash, while the Mustang 3rd-gen cars offered superb visibility and driving position.

    4) Even now, the Camaro, Challenger, and Charger aren't generating anywhere near the interest and excitement that the 2015 Mustang is. Those three cars are now obsolete, and both GM and Fiat won't have an answer for another two or three years. Meanwhile, if people want to drive the most exciting musclecar available, the Mustang is the only game in town.

    What's that? The 2014 Corvette? Sure it's a nice car - IF you have $55,000 and don't need a rear seat or a usable trunk. The Hellcat Challenger and Charger? Nice cars - got $60,000 and $1,500 to spend on tires?

    The Mustang. Often imitated, never duplicated.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 8:33 PM, SafeDrunkDriving wrote:

    I am a Camaro fan and the general dialogue here is: "Camaro is better, No, Mustang is better, No, You shut up, No, You shut up." You cannot convince a Camaro fan to buy a Mustang or a Mustang fan to buy a Camaro. A failure of a product will have to be based on actual sales. Will a current Mustang owner trade up for the 2015 model? Will Joe or Jane Nobody that is not a fan of Camaro or Mustang buy one or another.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 8:35 PM, miru wrote:

    Every car today is lighter than the car of the past. But did you notice how much easier they crumble in a accident.!

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 8:50 PM, fooliodoolio wrote:

    bcweir,

    Though I am a Camaro person, I agree with most of your comments. I would add to each.

    1) Thank you Ford for starting it

    2)Why does it matter that it is continuously produced? Sure thing, about the rest. Though I like the fact that they are now a thought (not competition) with the HellCat

    3)Absolutely, I made the same comment just by the picture at the top. Still not my favorite, but 10 times better than the Camaro.

    4)After the last 2 years, the Mustang can only generate more interest. Mostly because there couldn't possibly be any less interest since the 80s.

    I would add one more thing. Ford has an in-house racing division for the consumer, that is so cool To get the same thing for GM who have to go to one the speciality dealers, order a stock car, and ship it to them first.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 9:09 PM, djtpabay wrote:

    Actually I am very glad Ford did not make the Mustang smaller. Look what happened when they made the Mustang 2 in the 70's. It was abig flop! I dont like Dodge at all but the new Challenger Hellcat sounds like it will even beat a Corvette. Look it up

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 10:01 PM, calandraa wrote:

    Better Brakes and better suspension? I'd be willing to drive a car a hundred or so pounds heavier for the advantage! Oh and make the interior a little nicer? Its about time.

    I have no brand loyalty but I bet it sells! It won't win over Camaro fans but then again, how many Camaro fans are there in Europe or Australia? Its not nearly as fast as a 700+hp Dodge but it will likely turn and stop a little better...

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 10:14 PM, Boiler wrote:

    The main theme of this story is foolish. Why would any manufacturer want to dramatically change a winning formula? No same product manager would change the Mustang, Challenger, or Camaro too much from the pony car formula. Each has a very dedicated following and they want a pony car not a minivan or front wheel drive car. Ford has taken heat for changing the Mustang too much just like Chevy for changing the Corvette. I think both cars are better than the prior iterations.

    Having recently driven all three pony cars: I though the Challenger was too big, the Camaro has horrible visibility and weight issues and the Mustang seemed like the best combination for daily driving. All three could lose size and weight. Compare any to their 1st generation forefather to see how much larger they are now.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2014, at 10:22 PM, illbethere1 wrote:

    Y E S

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 12:09 AM, yuckfu wrote:

    why complain about any of the 3 ponycars,all 3 are great cars,i happen to like the looks of the Camaro best but a lot of automotive writers say the mustang is the better of the 3,want to complain about a car complain about all the butt ugly camrys and other jap crap you got to look at every day.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 1:22 AM, Networker50 wrote:

    Ford made the right decision. Who wants a smaller Mustang? Not me. For that matter lets start increasing the size of cars again so that a so called full size care is at least as big as last decades mid sized sedans.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 1:24 AM, Networker50 wrote:

    I have owned both Mustang's and Camaro's. I prefer the Mustang.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 1:52 AM, texcruzzer wrote:

    Wha wha, the fact is GM is working on a new smaller Camaro, it won't be smaller than the Mustang, it looks as if it will have a turbo 4. More copy cat'n. Chrysler, er Fiat, er SVT whoever is working on a new smaller Challenger, or Barracuda, it won't be smaller than the Mustang. Are ya catchin' on?

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 2:16 AM, randSaver wrote:

    Good article. Very interesting and surprising that Europeans do not want a smaller Mustang. I think the 'Stang will help raise the image of the Ford brand around the world.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 4:35 AM, ShannonWittman wrote:

    America invented the "ponycar," the affordable, powerful compact. Has never mattered if the world accepted them or no. They were ours. But going global, the '15 Mustang breaks new ground.

    Picture a German or British man whose executive job has not been swallowed up by socialism. Or picture a Russian man whose executive job has adapted to post-soviet gamesmanship. Or picture a Chinese man whose executive job is enhanced by market Communism.

    Any one of these may step onto an asphalt deck bearing dozens of 4-wheeled global brands. They gaze out and say quietly, "I want the one with the galloping horse. No, not the Ferrari. The other one I've heard about -- with the face like a tiger shark and rear wheels that light up on command."

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 8:09 AM, PJBear wrote:

    Forget the car..this bloated article should have been smaller and lighter.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 9:41 AM, redbonesrock wrote:

    Mustang this, Camaro that...who cares. GM guys will never buy a Mustang and vice-versa.

    When you add weight to a vehicle that is unsprung it is different than adding sprung weight to the car. A point that the writer is apparently unaware of.

    Those that whine about price of a Corvette are missing the point. It is not designed to compete with Camaros or Mustangs! It is built to compete with the European sports cars and does so well at a loss less money.

    I would like to see the super Camaros built in-house by GM as well as some others, but Ford just ships the Mustangs to the aftermarket builders who add their wares and then ship them back to Ford to sell. Its really six of one, half a dozen of the other in that regard.

    In any case any of the new models will not only run straighter and faster than their predecessors, they will also turn corners and stop on a dime....something those old ponycars could never do.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 9:51 AM, Stephano617 wrote:

    I agree with rRothenberger, the Mustang looks way better than that squashed down Camero! It should do well everywhere, heavier or not!

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 10:15 AM, Skylark79 wrote:

    "1) The Mustang is the ORIGINAL ponycar. This car wrote the book on what a ponycar should be. Rather than putting a huge motor inside an already overweight vehicle, Ford put a 289 inside a smaller, lightweight vehicle with a backseat both to make it more practical and more affordable. A long hood, short rear deck, and a fastback roofline. The Mustang INVENTED this in an afFORDable coupe.

    2) The Mustang is the OLDEST, CONTINUOUSLY PRODUCED musclecar in the world."

    So which is it BC, a pony car or muscle car? Why do Mustang fans always want to consider the car a muscle car when it never was one? GTO's, Skylarks, Impala's, Roadrunner's and the GTX are muscle cars, the Mustang is a Pony car and invented THAT segment, embrace it.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 10:45 AM, deadsprat wrote:

    Who cares? i own an over 20 year old Porsche 944 turbo that will run away from either a Camaro or Mustang on any windy road. i had hoped that Ford would have went for a lighter, better handling car. The Europeans won't be impressed with this "new" Mustang.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 11:20 AM, John1950 wrote:

    I'm not a fan of the new front end; it's too much like the Fusion and other Ford products. I prefer the 2005-2009 styling. That said, I would not mind having a 2015 at all. To the comment that the Mustang II was a flop, it wasn't. It sold over 400,000 copies in 1974.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 11:52 AM, ohiodale wrote:

    I think the new Mustang is really nice and will sell very well in the US. The eco boost will only weigh 150 lbs more than a 3 series BMW. If Ford would have changed the car too much it would have no longer of been a Mustang so what would be the use? Even the current Mustang looks great and has a lot of style. This new one will certainly be nice when you see it in person. I think both the Camaro and Mustang are nice cars. Why do Camaro loving red necks need to put down the Mustang? We all have our favorite cars and really shouldn't care what others like.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 12:06 PM, SumterSpeedShop wrote:

    Actually, the Mustang was not the first pony car, the Barracuda beat it to market by 15 days...the mustang just outsold it 10 to 1. And America did not invent the pony car, these cars were made in response to two things, first the increased popularity of smaller european sports cars, and second the growing economic power of women. early Mustangs came with an anemic 260 C.I. engine, they were not a muscle car or race car. they were just fun cheap transportation...

    Since the article was about weight, its funny that nobody has commented on it.

    camaro curb weight: 3750 lbs

    Challenger curb weight: 4160 lbs

    Mustang curb weight: 3517 lbs

    This article is pointless, as the mustang was and still is lighter than its competition. all the qualities that made it win awards like "best road trip car" and "best drivers car" are still there...or improved.

    and Porsche 944, the live axle Mustang was a decent handling car, it kept up with BMWs on road racing courses, and the Camaro ZL1 holds records at Nurburgring, and now the Stang has independent rear suspension.... you are either stereotyping the cars, or racing horrible drivers.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 12:11 PM, Cobra321 wrote:

    I race in club road racing events with a 99 Cobra, I have run against both the 2013/14 Mustangs and Camaros. I give the Mustangs the edge in track events because they have been racing for years and worked out many issues on the track. The Camaro is the new kid and still has a way to go.

    Nothing better than a good rivalry! Until someone builds a car to beat a Porsche, were all in second place anyway.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 12:17 PM, Dutchman61 wrote:

    The REALLY interesting thing about this is potential customers overseas did not buy into the idea that the ponycar was not for them. I think it is an interesting admission that Ford hid from the press who were demanding a "european mustang" to replace the last model. And this says something about Ford as well. They listen to customers a lot more than the press.

    The result is a modern suspension on a traditional pony car. The weight is not as much of an issue as it would seem since the car is lighter now than 20 years ago. And the simple truth is you need some weight with the V-8 power to keep the wheels from spinning. The truth is most buyers of this car don't car about the mileage. If they did they would buy a Focus. They are buying a "MUSTANG" and they want the image as well as the car. I think it will turn out to be the correct call. GM will doubtless respond with the Camero, but that is a tough sell overseas. The Camero is a true US product which has wondered all over the map in looks and style. It does not have the same type of "aura" and it is not the same overseas.

    Good luck Ford. I know I am interested in buying the 5.0 L GT.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 12:54 PM, chieftp wrote:

    I'd like to have new car, not something they've been rehashing for 50 years. remember when car companies came out with new models?

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 2:30 PM, Shepherdkisses wrote:

    Jason87467 just an FYI--

    YAH BABY! Bang for the buck is what it is all about. I took my pony up to the tunnel of trees and had a blast with the top down. Can't do that in a Camero, no sirree. I must say the black leather with the red stitching is sweeeet! Give me more of that Mr. Fields :). Those finishes are important to a person like me. I like them flush and plush.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 3:03 PM, mobrocket wrote:

    Considering Motley Fool there is a waiting list for this car, and in some areas wont be available for almost a year... I doubt Ford made a mistake

    This mustang will be the benchmark that Camaro and others gauge themselves against

    Just like the F series truck, is who toyota, GM, and Ram all try to out do

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 3:07 PM, mobrocket wrote:

    @deadsprat

    In Europe this car is going to do excellent. Mustangs have been far to expensive to export over there till now.

    These cars will be hot sellers because they will stand out from what they have.

    And your 944 isnt beating anyone, because its probably in the repair shop...

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 6:01 PM, katharinea wrote:

    As an owner of a 2012 convertible Mustang, I didn't like the nose cone of the 2013-2014 and the 2015 seems no better but not a lot worse. I also hated the ghost taillights of the '13-'14 and like that the '15 went back to a more classic visible in daylight 3 red segment taillight. The independent rear suspension is something we've wanted for years, but I have to admit the live axle has not been near as bad as you might expect except for the clunk when going over speed bumps. I'm disappointed not much change in the power trains other than the 4 banger. Overall an improvement over the outgoing '14 but I still like the classic looks of the 2012 with the modern power train the best.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 11:11 AM, WhiteHatBobby wrote:

    Very interesting. Reports are GM is working on the 2016 Camaro that will go on the Cadillac ATS/CTS chassis, and even plans the next Impala will move to the next-generation Holden Commodore (VJ). The new Camaro, the VJ Commodore/Impala, ATS, and CTS would probably be on the same chassis ("Alpha").

    This war is becoming even bigger by the day. That's why GM is moving Chevrolet up in class, with the Camaro, Corvette, and likely the Alpha-based Impala to have performance versions in Europe as the brand becomes "American performance".

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 5:33 PM, Phuqna wrote:

    Maybe Motley Fool should design the next Mustang for Ford, or better yet pair up with TMZ to write their business section.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 9:41 PM, Rare440 wrote:

    The Mustang has proven itself in the marketplace. Why mess with a good thing?

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