At 50, new-look Mustang still has plenty of muscle

Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:51:35 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 05 2013 06:45:43 PM EST

America's first pony car -- the Ford Mustang -- is celebrating its 50th birthday with a new design and plans to go global.

DEARBORN, Mich. -

America's first pony car -- the Ford Mustang -- is celebrating its 50th birthday with a new design and plans to go global.

Ford Motor Co. revealed the 2015 Mustang on Thursday morning at events in New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Sydney, Barcelona and its Michigan hometown. It goes on sale next year in North America and will arrive later in Europe and Asia.

The U.S.-made car is currently sold overseas, but this is the first time it has been engineered to meet various international safety and emissions standards. A right-hand-drive version is being offered for the first time, for the United Kingdom and Australia, and Ford will market the car more heavily overseas.

--Pictures courtesy of Ford

Chief engineer Dave Pericak said that while the design meets international needs, it wasn't influenced by them.

"We did not design a global Mustang. We designed a Mustang and took it global," Pericak said.

The Mustang isn't anywhere near Ford's best-seller, but Ford says the Mustang has the highest name recognition and highest favorable opinion of any car in its lineup.

"It's an emotional connection to the rest of the brand," said Jacques Brent, group marketing manager for large cars and SUVs.

The Mustang's first full redesign since 2005 presented Ford with a tough task: Update and freshen an icon without alienating its passionate fans. More than 9 million Mustangs have been sold since 1964, and the car has hundreds of fan clubs. Farrah Fawcett drove a white one in "Charlie's Angels;" Steve McQueen raced a dark green one through the streets of San Francisco in 1968's "Bullitt."

The result is a new car with plenty of cues from the old. But the new car sits lower and wider, and the roof tapers dramatically in the front and back.

Even with Ford's push, overseas sales will likely be modest, said Stephanie Brinley, an auto analyst with the consulting company IHS. IHS forecasts European Mustang sales will triple from current levels to around 2,500 in 2015, while sales in China will likely remain low because two-door coupes aren't popular there.

Coupes, in fact, make up less than 1 percent of sales annually across the globe, Brinley said. But they're still an important car for automakers to have.

"It's an aspirational body style. It signals a sporty drive and a sexier product," she said.

Ford isn't saying how much the new Mustang will cost, but the current one starts around $23,000. A convertible version will also be offered.

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