Bold, powerful, iconic. Those are three perfect words to describe the history of Ford's (NYSE:F) Mustang. From the old movie duels with the Camaro to the race track and car shows, the Mustang has captured fans across America for decades. Unfortunately, like everything else, the Mustang will need to evolve to survive. That's about to take place next year, when Ford unveils its 2015 Mustang, and it will surely ruffle the feathers of longtime fans. The preceding photo is a rendering, and Ford has kept its new-look Mustang under tight lock and key. One thing is for sure: It will be drastically different.
Will its evolution be the key to turning its sales decline around? Or will it be the cause of its ultimate demise?
Vehicle sales crashed to the floor during the Great Recession but have since rebounded. Unfortunately, some vehicles were left behind in the recent rebound, the Mustang included.
The Great Recession sealed the coffin on the Mustang as we know it. Consumer preferences switched to vehicles like Ford's new Fusion, which offered much better fuel economy and unique style in a typically bland mid-size segment. After the recession, many people suddenly tossed aside larger gas-guzzling vehicles for smaller, fuel-efficient rides. If the Mustang doesn't adapt to this change, it risks fading away into obsolescence.
Ford has two key things in mind when it comes to the all-new 2015 Mustang, and loyal fans might not like the end result. First, it has to appease the changing consumer attitude in the U.S., which means it will be receiving different engine options to improve fuel efficiency. Rumors are spreading that it could include three options: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that puts out 300 horsepower, a 3.7-liter six-cylinder that would put out 305hp but supposedly could be upped to nearly 400, and the classic 5.0-liter eight-cylinder engine that puts out 475hp-plus.
Though these are rumors, they make perfect sense to me. Also, for the first time, an EcoBoost turbocharged engine will be a prime option -- especially overseas. That sound you just heard was loyal fans pounding their keyboards at the thought of an EcoBoost Mustang.
One of the most important things to consider is that Ford is becoming much more efficient and profitable as a company, thanks in part to Alan Mulally's "One Ford" vision. Consider that 85% of vehicle sales will be from nine platforms by the end of this year. That means the new-look Mustang will need to be smaller and more globally oriented -- definitely not the pure American Mustang of old. According to Edmunds, Ford is working to remove about 400 pounds from the current model that weighs in at roughly 3,500 pounds. It's also believed the Mustang will check in about 15 inches shorter and 6 inches narrower.
Like it or not, for the Mustang to rebound and live on, it must evolve. It can't stay in its retro form forever, although I rather enjoy the look. Right now, Ford as a company is almost entirely dependent on North America for its profits. That has to change, and Ford wants its iconic Pony car to gallop on the global stage, helping the folks at the Blue Oval complete one of the greatest business turnarounds in history.
Consider that the Mustang evolution could help Ford conquer two continents. Right now, even amid a European market still in decline, Ford has managed to increase its wholesale volume, market share, revenues, pre-tax profits, and operating margins -- a huge win. That charge has been led by Ford's Fiesta and Focus models, and the Mustang could take the baton and continue the charge as Europe rebounds.
Ford's Asia-Pacific-Africa region, which is mainly China, equates to about 8% of overall revenue. Ford expects that figure to increase to 40% by 2020, a large and quick jump. If the company can make the Mustang as popular overseas as it was here, while not alienating the U.S. fan, it could mean huge things for company market share and profits.
Yes, loyal Mustang fans may hate the all-new design that will be unveiled next year, but it certainly isn't going to die off. I believe the evolution of the Mustang is about to bring its best generation yet, and it could quickly change from an American icon to a global icon. How can you hate that?
Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.