2015 Ford Mustang: Moderate Failure?


Will the 2015 Ford Mustang be a hit for the Ford Motor Company? Will the Mustang exceed current sales totals? More importantly, will the Mustang achieve our best guess at targeted sales goals? As a long-time driver and admirer of Mustangs it pains me to say this, but “no.” Maybe you saw all of the hype last month with the Mustang’s global reveal? If you’re like me, you witnessed hours and hours of celebrity talking heads like Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” throw themselves on top of the “reveal car” and start gyrating on the hood. Hype is nice, but do you think the design is strong enough to grab the #1 sports car sales title with two hands?

Why am I asking these questions? I recently visited the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Aside from being a visually orgasmic attack that drained my wallet and tested my marriage, I saw the first production 2015 Mustang GT sell for $300,000, while a 2014 Z/28 Chevy Camaro sold for $650,000. That’s more than double. It’s important to note that the Barrett-Jackson auction floor has twice as many Mustangs as it does Camaros for sale on most days, indicating that this channel is ripe with Mustang money. What assumptions can I draw from this? The Chevy Camaro, despite a light refresh, is still showing the strongest demand domestically and Ford didn’t design a 2015 Mustang with enough domestic appeal to leap GM on the pony-car sales chart.

2015 Mustang Auctioned at Barrett-Jackson for $300k

2014 Chevy Camaro Auctioned at Barrett-Jackson for $650k

I fear the design might be a moderate and relative failure. Even if sales totals remain the same it will still sell 10’s of thousands of units annually, and the reality is that a Mustang sales failure wouldn’t collapse Ford Motor Company as the namesake only results in 3% of total vehicle sales. But the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry between Ford and G.M. is meaningful within the context of home market share and brand loyalty. The design is definitely different and the initial vehicle specifics indicate that this iteration stands to be the best performing Mustang GT ever produced, but this car isn’t for “us.” If you saw some of Ford’s initial commercials for the new product, you’ll see surfing, painting, and ear gauges. These human characteristics and hobbies are quite a departure from the Steve McQueen/Tim-The-Tool-Man persona I’ve seen Ford embrace as “Mustang.” I don’t recall Nicholas Cage stealing “Eleanor” with a 1-inch wide hole in his earlobe. In addition to Ford wooing new-age “hippies,” European markets have eliminated some of the most distinguishable design cues (huge fog lights, spoilers, faux side vents, etc.). All of these changes, whether you or I like them or not, were done to reclaim the championship belt that comes with being #1 in sales.

Ford is pointing towards global and domestic research as their motivation for the new Mustang’s design and overall strategy. As the product line’s long-standing domestic target market has aged beyond their “prime-buying” years, this car looks more and more like a petri dish of cold market research mixed with molding clay and the Ford Fusion’s spare parts bin. Alan Mullaly, Ford’s CEO, is on record as saying that global sales will “result in less than 10%” of total Mustang sales. Will that 10% of volume make a difference? Will it make the Mustang #1 in sales again? Will these goals be worth the design risks they took?

The 6th generation Mustang could be facing sales goals of roughly 100,000 units globally. Let’s dig into some numbers. The most modern and validated annual sales totals indicate an industry-leading peak for the Mustang was 2006 with 166,530 units. The competition was M.I.A. as GM sat on the sidelines with no Camaro/Firebird offering to split sales. The economy almost choked to death (2007-2008), all vehicle sales took a nosedive, things started to slowly improve, and then the Camaro made a reappearance in 2009. The Camaro’s “high-water mark” in annual sales totals would be 88,249 units in 2011 (plus an additional 3,750 Canadian units, pushing its North American total above 90,000 units), while the Mustang sold 70,438 (25% less) that same year (with another 4,433 sold in Canada). The final annual sales totals for 2013 have the Camaro outselling the Mustang 80,567 to 77,186 (over 4% more). If I include Canadian sales totals from 2013 the brands sold almost the same volume with 82,734 Camaros and 82,240 Mustangs (I don’t have any other reliable market data outside of these two countries). Assuming the post-recession era dynamic of 3 major production muscle car brands (it’s fair to acknowledge the Dodge Challenger) dominating the domestic market hold relatively true, my temptation is to take Camaro’s modern North American annual sales peak of 91,999 units (2011) and add 10% to it (the global sales forecast verbally acknowledged by Ford). This formula assumes the Camaro’s 2011 sales performance is the ceiling for this vehicle segment on an annual basis as the industry and its market places stand. Regardless of Mustang’s specific profit margins benefitting from the leveraging of global platforms, volume is still a key performance indicator.

Again, I just don’t see 100,000 annual units happening in 2015, 2016, 0r 2017. Do you?