Unless you've been living under a rock over the past year, you probably have heard Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) prized pony car, the Mustang, is turning 50. In a way, it already feels ancient as the last redesign took place almost a decade ago, in 2005. Ford's iconic Mustang has been a vital part of the automaker's image and has played the role of a hero car in numerous films, dating all the way back to the epic chase scene in the 1968 film Bullitt, to this year's Need for Speed.
While it would be impossible to generate the same level of excitement around the Mustang this year, as Ford did in 1964 with the original Stang, the next-generation muscle car has a chance to be a game-changer for other reasons.
Opening new doors
In 2015 Ford is doing something unprecedented and attempting to export the American love affair with the Mustang globally -- and it has a good chance to succeed. This is where the folks at the Blue Oval have modernized the Mustang's sales strategy, to try and walk a fine line between not alienating the cult following the muscle car has grown over the decades but managing to open the doors to a massive amount of car buyers that haven't considered buying in the past.
The first new door the 2015 Mustang will be knocking down will be to the younger and more fuel conscious car buyer here in America. Mustang loyalists, like myself, have to be honest: times have changed. Look at how sales of the Stang have slipped while more fuel-efficient rides, like Ford's Fusion, have only driven higher.
Ford needed to design a new Mustang that would break out of its niche segment in a competitive market.
Really? A 4-banger Mustang?
To solve that problem Ford introduced a new engine to the Mustang lineup, a 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged engine. For a slightly higher price, consumers that aren't interested in the purist V8 engine can opt for the EcoBoost, which puts out approximately 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, compared to the base V6 model with 300 horsepower, and should get an improved miles-per-gallon rating.
Sure, the Mustang purists out there are moaning that the V6 is "bad enough" -- but us purists can still have the 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 engine and allow a different and new type of consumer to join the ranks of Mustang drivers.
The Mustang's chief rival, the Chevrolet Camaro, has narrowly won the sales race between the two muscle cars since 2010, but that's about to change. IHS Automotive predicts the 2015 Mustang is going to surpass the rival Camaro in sales, and should top 100,000 in U.S. sales for the first time since 2007.
"The old Mustang is a little long in the tooth, and the Camaro has been kicking our butt the last few years," Randall Reed, CEO of World Class Automotive, says, according to Automotive News. "The new Mustang styling is a game changer."
In fact, not only is the new EcoBoost engine, fresh redesign, and improved fuel economy key to opening new doors here in the land of the brave, it's going to be the Mustang's only chance for success in Europe and China where the muscle car hasn't been a good marketing fit, until now.
In addition to the Mustang opening new doors in America, and across the globe, the 2015 is just flat out better in every aspect. The Stang is finally getting an independent rear suspension, and has a lighter platform which will help its daily driving and handling performance. It's also doubling the amount of airbags found in previous Mustangs to improve safety and will boast other new features such as sensors to detect the severity of a crash, a precollision system with radar cruise control, among others.
Outside of the Mustang's new features, the next-generation is guaranteed to bring in numerous special models to ignite excitement and sales. The 50th anniversary edition is already available, though only 1964 of them will be sold. It appears as though Ford will launch a GT350 and Mach 1 in the near future, and who knows what else is cooking behind the scenes in Dearborn.
One thing is for sure, expect the 2015 Mustang to have more success than it has in a long time. If Ford's muscle car can accelerate sales to a level not seen in ten years, on top of purely incremental sales overseas, it will be a big win for Ford. So far it looks like it's not a matter of if the Mustang will reclaim its sales crown among muscle cars in 2015, but of how badly it will leave the competition in the dust.
Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.