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Ford set to talk up fuel-efficient Mustang

Green machine: The Mustang may have a 5.0-litre V8 engine option, but Ford could push the eco-friendly EcoBoost version harder in a bid to change its brand image.

Blue Oval to shift the way it promotes its performance cars when Mustang arrives

Ford logo5 May 2015

FORD Australia may forgo howling V8 soundtracks as it considers marketing its new Mustang on its fuel economy, rather than its performance, in a bid to change the image of the Blue Oval brand Down UnderThe American-built sportscar arrives in Australia in late 2015, and it will act as the flagship performance model in Ford’s line-up from late 2016 when the closure of its local manufacturing operations means the end of the line for the V8-powered Falcon XR8.

Ford is offering the Mustang with two powertrains and two body styles, with the fuel-efficient 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine kicking things off at $44,990, plus on-roads, for the entry level Fastback manual. The equivalent 5.0-litre V8 adds $10,000 to that price.

Speaking at the launch of the Focus ST hot hatch in the Yarra Valley last week, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said the car-maker is currently looking at marketing strategies for its high-performance models and variants, but added that the priority was on its more conventional products for now.

“We will look at how we are going to market the vehicles,” he said “We haven’t made a decision yet. Because our first priority is to make sure the mainstream customer understands and has a demand and appeal around our mainstream products.”

Ford has offered high-performance V8-powered muscle cars for decades, usually with Falcon badges, and it has also leveraged its involvement in the Australian V8 Supercar championship to appeal to its Aussie-built sedan-loving die-hard fans.

It has also imported limited numbers of Mustangs in previous years, most notably in 2001 when it brought over a handful of left-hand-drive GTOs for conversion and local sale. Priced around $85,000, only 400 were sold over two years, and the program was discontinued in 2003.

But as the company prepares to quit local manufacturing, it is also working hard to change the perception of its brand to broaden its appeal beyond that traditional base, and Mr Whickman said that could mean a rethink on how it pushes its go-fast models.

“Our higher-end vehicles, our sports tourers, our rally sport models, that’s the cream on the top. It’s an interesting balance,” he said.

“We could bring Mustang in and position it a certain way, and we could potentially perpetuate some of the things that people think about us of the past petrol head, all about power, high gas mileage and those sorts of things.

And we are going to bring the Mustang in and do it in a certain way that people are alerted to ‘wow, there is a 2.3-litre EcoBoost and a V8’.” Mr Whickman said that Ford needs to ensure it does not focus too heavily on promoting its performance models and variants, adding that he would not want to detract from the company’s mainstream fare.

“The way we bring in a Mustang is very interesting, but representative of how we go to market with some of those models,” he noted “Because if we just quickly gravitate up here, to what I call the hero models, we may lose sight very quickly of our bread and butter.

“And our vehicles down here (mainstream models) are outstanding models, let along the ones up here (hero models). I don’t want to become the sportscar company. There is no utility in that long term. It’s got to be balanced.”

Following the shut-down of the local manufacturing line next year, Ford’s performance car offerings will be limited to the new Mustang, and ST versions of its Fiesta and Focus small cars. A more hardcore, all-wheel drive RS version of the Focus is also arriving next year to tack on the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R.

There is speculation that the ST badge could also appear on the Mondeo mid-sizer in the future, but this is yet to be confirmed by Ford.

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