Cars

Ford is taking its successful Mustang redesign to new markets

The Ford Mustang has been an American sports car icon for decades. The traditional buyers have been men who love the power as they zoom off onto open highways.

Erich Merkle, U.S. sales analyst at Ford Motor Company in Detroit, personally owns one of these Mustangs. His yellow Mustang features a 5-liter, V-8 engine.

“It is a manual,” Merkle said. “I love the manual transmission. I love the sound of the engine when I start it. It gives you a sense of freedom.”

When Ford decided to redesign the Mustang for 2015, the company wanted to retain the traditional buyers of the sports car while reaching out to new buyers both in the United States and abroad.

“In order to be successful with the type of vehicle like the Mustang – and this is a really difficult thing to pull off – is No. 1, people have to recognize it as something new and No. 2, it still has to look like a Mustang,” Merkle said in telephone interview in September.

“From a designe perspective, that is a very difficult thing to achieve – make it look like it is new but people have to instantly recognize it is a Mustang.”

New features are needed to attract customers who might never have thought about owning a Mustang. Ford did that by adding the option of the 2.3 liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost (turbocharged) engine.

“This is something new for Mustangs,” Merkle said. “You can get more people excited about the product. The vehicle is not dumbed down; it is packaged up and looks every bit as sharp as a Mustang GT.”

Judging by sales figures for the first six months of this year, Ford hit a home run with its 2015 Mustang. According to global IHS Automotive registration data, customers globally registered 76,124 vehicles, a 56 percent increase versus the same period last year.

According to IHS, the Mustang is now the best-selling sports car in 49 states with the exception of Arkansas. In the Kansas City region, the Mustang has seen a 69 percent increase in sales from last August.

“You have a feel, a good idea that this is going to hit, it is going to work,” Merkle said. “The whole team here at Ford has worked so hard on it. To see it prove out like it has with the sales numbers is an incredible feeling.

“We are not the only ones that get giddy about it. It is so well received by everybody, whether it is the West coast, the East coast or the Kansas City area, we are excited to give Mustangs the ability to stretch their legs.”

And Ford is truly stretching the legs of the Mustangs to reach markets overseas that it has never been in before. In markets where you drive on the opposite side of the road, Ford is introducing a right-hand drive Mustang. They will hit the road later in this fall.

“We have been producing them and shipping them out,” Merkle said. “We have orders in the UK. We have orders in Australia that we’ve been filling. They will also go to New Zealand, Japan and South Africa and a smattering of some of the Caribbean countries.

Merkle points out that in order for the Mustang to expand globally, it takes more than just putting the steering wheel on the right side.

“You have to meet crash standards and it has to comply all over the world and every place we are going to sell this vehicle, which at the end of the year, it is going to be in 100 countries,” Merkle said. “It was designed and developed with that in mind from the start. The right-hand drive is one of the items you need to address if you are going to sell a vehicle in right-hand-drive markets.”

Personally, Merkle likes several aspects of the 2015 Mustang.

“The shoulders on the rear are just phenomenal,” Merkle said. “The rear tail lamps, in my opinion, harken back to something from the ’67 and ’68 vintage Mustang. It has a very aggressive stance to it. The independent rear suspension that is now on the Mustang makes it handle like never before. It is an excellent-handling sports car.

“It is all the little things that add up to where people say, ‘Wow, I really want to have that car. I want to own it and be seen in that vehicle.’”

If you have a story you would like to see On the Move, email David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com.

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