The Ford Mustang is the world's best-selling sports car three years running.

When the Ford Mustang turned 50, the automaker decided it was time to see just how popular the pony car was, and it began selling one of America’s first muscle cars globally.

Turned out to be a fine idea.

Now that the Mustang is about to turn the big Five-Four, it is also celebrating its third consecutive year as the best-selling sports car in the world, according to IHS Markit. Global Mustang registrations in 2017 totaled 125,809 cars, according to Ford.

The automaker examined the most recent new light vehicle registration data from IHS Markit, which is compiled from government and other sources. It captures 95% of global new vehicle volumes in more than 80 countries, it shows that the Mustang is ahead of all other sports coupe competitors worldwide.

Ford has built a series of California Special editions since the first was launched in 1968.

(Ford goes California dreaming with special edition Mustang. Click Here for the story.)

“The world is falling in love with Mustang,” said Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst. “Mustang represents the best of American design, performance and freedom, with an unmistakable personality that’s appeals – regardless of your post code.”

Of the nearly 126,000 vehicles registered worldwide, Ford reported 81,866 of those were sold in the United States, meaning more than one-third of all Mustang registrations occur in export markets. Demand remains particularly strong in China, where Mustang was the best-selling sports coupe last year based on 7,125 registrations.

Ford officials decided with the 2015 Mustang to open up the number of markets where it would be sold.

If it weren’t for the Mustang, Ford’s sales in China last year, already disappointing, would have been alarming. The Mustang had a pent-up demand in China with more than 18,000 people signing up for a test drive the first week it was available in the spring of 2015.

The most popular configuration worldwide is the Mustang GT with the 5.0-liter V8. However, it was the significant makeover that may have changed the global perspective the car.

(Click Here for a look at how Germans love the Mustang.)

The 2015 model got a long-sought – and well-reviewed – new independent rear suspension, as well as major interior upgrades.  And the 2015 model will be factory-built with both conventional Left-Hand Drive (LHD) and Right-Hand Drive (RHD).  RHD is the motoring convention in Japan, the U.K. and most former British colonies — with the notable exception of Canada.

In March 2016, it was the best-selling sports car in Germany. Ford sold 780 Mustangs in Germany in March outpacing what most people would likely assume to be the leader the Porsche 911 at 752 units and the Audi TT at 708 cars. It didn’t finish the year on top, but to even take a month speaks volumes.

A Chinese print ad announces the official arrival of the 2015 Mustang to Ford showrooms.

While sports cars have traditionally skewed toward male buyers in the United States, Mustang is increasingly finding favor with women. In an environment of relatively flat sports car sales to women, Ford research shows a 10% gain in women buying Mustang in the last five years.

(To see more about the Mustang’s big overseas sales push in 2015, Click Here.)

Since global exports began in 2015, through December 2017, Ford has sold 418,000 Mustangs around the world. Sports coupes, as defined by IHS Markit, include two-door and convertible models.

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