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Teaching an Old Pony New Tricks

Few automobiles are as iconic as the Ford Mustang.  So influential was the “pony car” that it inspired other automakers to create their own competing brands, most notably Chevrolet with the Camaro and Dodge with the Charger. The term “pony car” or “muscle car” defined the look and feel of these cars being built with long sloping fronts, compact rears and seating set further back than most sports cars.

For nearly 50 years the Mustang has been a signature Ford model and continues to be one of their top sellers.  In fact, when they first rolled off the assembly line in 1965 sales were expected to be around 100,000 units for the first year.  They sold that many in the first three months. Ford went on to sell 328,000 in the first year, making it one of the most successful launches of a new model ever.

Its unique design has only seen a few changes over the years. In 1972 Ford came up with a drastic redesign of the Mustang that nearly killed their sales.  They quickly reworked the car to look more like one everybody knew and loved with the main exception being the addition of a hatchback in the 1980’s. Nearly fifty years and five generations later it has largely been untouched.  Now Ford is facing a challenge with the Mustang and is making a bold move to meet it.

Having been the first generation to grow up with them, Baby Boomers have naturally been the largest consumers of muscle cars. In fact, the average age of a Mustang buyer is 51 years old and while the market is still there, Ford realizes the Baby Boomer market is drying up fast.  To make matters worse the younger generations aren’t nearly as interested in buying cars as their predecessors were.  In order to encourage the younger crowd to buy Mustangs Ford has decided to redesign the car with a sleeker more “European” look to it.  The hope is that this will appeal to those who are trending away from the traditional muscle car look.

This, of course, carries a large risk for Ford as well. Will the redesign alienate their current, older customer base?  Ford is gambling that the Baby Boomer market has reached its peak and will soon begin to decline and they hope to lure in new buyers before their competitors do. It will be a tough sell though since younger generations do not see cars as status symbols that they used to be.

Ford is taking a large, but calculated risk. Stray too far from the car everybody knows and love and it can cost millions. Keep it to close to the way it is now and they risk losing the younger market. It will be awhile until we find out what happens though, the new Mustang won’t be released until 2014, until then it’s anybody’s guess.

Jeff Jordan lives, works and writes (sometimes) in Southern California. Sadly, he drives a beat up Altima instead of a nice, shiny, new Mustang, but that can’t stop him from dreaming right? One way to save on a Mustang is to sell or trade in a car to reduce the cost. You can also find one at a certified used dealer.

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