Americans tend to do things differently than people in other countries, and we take a lot of pride in our nation being a leader rather than a follower. The world has a love affair with futbol while we, on the other hand, have a love affair with our kind of football. Being different is great, unless of course you happen to be a global automaker trying to design a vehicle that the rest of the world loves just as much as Americans do -- like the 2015 Mustang. Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) plans for its redesigned Mustang are huge, but can it possibly live up to expectations as it debuts across the globe?
Different strokes for different folks
Consider this: Ford's Focus retained its title as the world's best-selling vehicle nameplate last year and sold more than a million vehicles across the globe. Here in the United States, though, it's not even popular enough to be Ford's best-selling passenger car!
It's a similar song and dance for Ford's Fiesta, which is the world's best-selling subcompact nameplate, recording nearly 750,000 units sold in 2013. Here in the states, though, sales of the Fiesta are down 17% in 2014, and it merely ranks as Ford's 8th best-selling vehicle.
It's clear that vehicles that sell well globally aren't the top choice for Americans, and vice versa. That's what makes Ford's challenge to revive sales of the iconic Mustang in America, while simultaneously exporting that success overseas for the first time, very difficult. Ford must walk a fine line of staying true to the American Mustang enthusiasts while reshaping the iconic pony car to sell in more than 120 countries next year -- including more than 25 right-hand-drive markets.
To walk the fine line between American and global consumers, Ford took a more evolutionary approach to its design, yet managed to tweak necessary details to enable the 2015 Mustang to be a hit internationally, as well. Looking at the two photos below, comparing a 2014 Mustang to the redesigned 2015 model, a couple of things become apparent.
You can see that while the Mustang kept its iconic look, it became more sleek and modern, less blocky, as the headlights have a more pronounced curve, and slightly smaller -- all necessary, yet small, changes to help the vehicle appeal to overseas markets.
Ford's strategy to change the Mustang's appearance just enough to gallop onto the global stage doesn't end with the exterior; its technology upgrades, new suspension, and a new engine option will hugely benefit the 2015 model.
Now that the 2015 Mustang has fully independent front and rear suspension systems, the vehicle should be nimble and handle much better than previous generations. Furthermore, Ford understood the need for flexibility in engine options for the vehicle to sell across the globe. For the first time, it will offer a 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine that will help appeal to a different and potentially younger, as well as global, consumer; the EcoBoost's 310 hp and 320 lb-ft torque even outperforms the base V-6's 300hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.
In addition to engine flexibility under the hood, to appeal to as many different consumers as possible, Ford has also upgraded the Mustang's safety features. Though it isn't at the top of my personal list of must-have Mustang traits, some consumers are thrilled that the Mustang now boasts twice the amount of airbags compared to the previous generation.
So far, while it's far too early to draw conclusions, initial feedback overseas is very positive. Ford has begun advertising in Europe, and the automaker's initial offer of 500 models was reserved in 30 seconds, and an additional 9,300 registrations were booked. Those numbers won't move the needle for Ford, but it suggests there is initial appeal, even with advertising in Europe in such infancy. In addition to Europe, demand and feedback in China has also been reported to be very strong initially. Those two markets will be key for the Mustang to succeed globally.
Make no mistake, vehicles that sell well overseas often don't have the same success here in the United States, and vice versa. When an automaker tries to appease and appeal to both markets, it could mean a huge disaster or a huge success -- a sizable risk for such an important vehicle.
While many American Mustang enthusiasts are on the fence regarding the new design, I think Ford nailed it. Ford did just enough to modernize the exterior, upgrade the interior's key technology and infotainment system, and improve safety and handling, while offering three engines to appeal to consumers with much different tastes. Detroit's second-largest automaker has taken a clear stance -- that it believes an American Mustang with a couple of minor tweaks will sell well globally.
We'll know over the next year if Ford hit the sweet spot for the Mustang to become a global icon in addition to being an American star, but one thing is for sure: Even with the Mustang celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, its story is far from over. And though it's very hard to believe, it's possible the best of the Mustang's story is yet to come.
Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. 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.