The first of the new 2015 Ford Mustangs rolled off the assembly line this week, and though the new pony car won’t go on sale in Europe or Asia until next year, overseas dealers have already snapped up their allocation of the sixth-generation Mustangs, according to Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of The Americas.
The Mustang has traditionally been a car for North America, but it has nonetheless developed a loyal following in markets around the world, with a number of dealers trading in so-called “gray market” exports. That strong following convinced Ford it could start marketing the newly redesigned coupe and convertible pony cars globally.
“We’re not yet (officially) taking orders in other parts of the world yet because we’re going to start here in North America filling up the pipeline. But we’re seeing very strong demand” in Asia and Europe, Hinrichs told reporters after the ceremony marking the official launch of production of the sixth-generation Mustang, which is being prepared for sales in 120 countries.
“To just give you a sense, during the (European) Champions League Final in soccer, they put the allocation up for sale and they sold out in less than hour,” said Hinrichs, adding he is optimistic that the Mustang, an American icon for better than half a century, can be transformed into a true global car.
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Hinrichs noted the Flat Rock plant, which has undergone a $555 million renovation to prepare for the launch, will also build a right-hand drive version of the new Mustang, starting next year. He also disclosed Ford is preparing to export both the convertible version of the pony car and the GT with its 435-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine, even though large-displacement engines are heavily taxed in many countries.
Ford is adding a smaller, turbocharged V-6 to the new Mustang mix, and that EcoBoost engine is expected to become the powertrain of choice outside North America.
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The majority of the Mustangs built in Flat Rock will continue to be sold in the U.S. where the car already has an enormous, built-in fan base, but sales in Europe and Asia could help drive Ford to boost production at the Flat Rock plant.
“There’s definitely available capacity for a third shift,” said Hinrichs, who added that Flat Rock is one of Ford’s only plants operating on just two shifts. “We’ll know by the second half of 2015 how global demand is going.”
Ford could use a bump from the new Mustang. The maker has sold less than 51,000 of the old model so far this year, trailing its rival Chevrolet Camaro, which has sold more than 56,600. But Ford hopes to regain the lead in that segment with the launch of the new pony car.
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While Mustang sales have been sluggish, Ford has been more than keeping pace with the overall recovery of the U.S. new car market. Hinrichs noted the maker is continuing to bolster its output to meet consumer demand. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the SAAR hit 17 million units this month,” he added, a reference to the seasonally adjust annual rate of sales, which has been forecast to hit around 16 million for all of 2014.
Earlier this week, Ford announced plans to hire 300 new employees and spend $129 million investment at its Louisville Assembly Plant to support production of the all-new 2015 Lincoln MKC, that brand’s new compact luxury crossover.
MKC is the second of four all-new Lincoln vehicles being introduced by 2016, and will go on sale in China, along with the MKZ sedan, when the Lincoln brand debuts there later this year.
To underscore Lincoln commitment to quality, the new Lincoln Luxury Validation Center will be built in Louisville and staffed by inspection teams that will take a “white-glove” approach to each new Lincoln built at the plant, Ford officials said.
Small premium utility vehicles make up the fastest-growing luxury segment, with more than 600% growth since 2008 and nearly 300% growth projected between now and 2018.
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