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Oz market points to worldwide Ford Mustang success

Muscle mania: Despite an American muscle car resurgence in recent years, Ford’s Mustang is still the only V8-powered, manual vehicle offered from factory to right-hand-drive export markets.

Australia an important trendsetter for Ford Mustang, V8 power likely to continue

Ford logo12 Jun 2018

By TUNG NGUYEN

AUSTRALIA is seen as a trend-setting market for Ford’s wildly-popular Mustang sportscar, with the Blue Oval brand keeping a close eye on local sales and reactions as a key indicator of success for its global muscle car.
 
Ford Mustang chief program engineer Carl Widmann, who touched down to launch the updated V8-powered GT last week, told GoAuto that he travels Down Under every eight months to embed himself in the local market – the biggest right-hand-drive (RHD) market in the world.
 
“I’m a big believer in Australia as a bellwether for the Mustang’s export capabilities, so I come here every eight months to really understand how that market is growing, to interact with the Mustang community … if we can create a sustainable Mustang community here, to me, that’s really important,” he said.
 
“Volume-wise, that’s important, but I think culturally and that community stuff is very important because it is the second-highest selling Ford, and then to me it’s in one of the top five markets, but it’s also probably a bellwether for growth for Mustang and the sustainability of that brand.”
 
Last year, Ford finished with 9164 Mustang sales, a record-setting and likely unbeatable 12-month run, to nab the best-selling sportscar crown.
 
In 2018 however, sales to the end of May have dropped nearly 40 per cent, to 2285 units, in the lead-up to a mid-cycle refresh, but Australia still outpaces other RHD Mustang markets including the UK, Japan and South Africa.
 
However, while Mr Widmann takes on board feedback from the local market, he said new iterations of the current sixth-generation Mustang, and expected next-gen versions, will still sport a global flavour.
 
“I’m definitely looking for feedback … I think you guys see a lot of cars, you have a good understanding of the market and how this (Mustang) fits into the market,” he said.
 
“I think that emotional state that we’re looking for in the Mustang isn’t unique necessarily. I think how the product we export is viewed as being true to that is the sounding board I’m looking for.
 
“So, we create something different to meet all the export requirements, we had to add DRLs and hood vents and all of these types of things, and then the sounding board is how does that deliver on the emotional side of Mustang.
 
“Australia provides a tremendously good sounding board as the enthusiast market, a real clear understanding of what they believe they’d like to get. So, from that perspective, that’s why Australia is so important.”
 
When questioned on the potential for a rumoured hybrid Mustang down the line, Mr Widmann did not rule out an electrified version altogether, but said Ford is committed to offering a V8 version.
 
“I think everybody is trying to bounce these ideas off and trying to figure out ‘will it resonate? Does it fit? How would it fit in the portfolio?’. I think as we look to the global Mustang, you’ve got markets where CO2 compliance is going to be more constrained than other markets, and then it’s just a question of how it all fits together – and it’s a big question, right?” he said.
 
“I think it (a V8 engine) is very core to what it is, and I think it’s just going to be a question in each market of how they treat the V8.
 
“V8s in Italy right now are really hard to obtain because there is a 5000 (Euro) tax a year on a V8 Mustang, so we’ve already got markets where the mix – you guys are 85 per cent V8, 15 per cent EcoBoost – has flip-flopped the other way because of taxation.”
 
Mr Widmann said, despite tightening emissions regulations and a petrol V8 engine that are at odds with one another, he believes there will always be room for a bent-eight Mustang.
 
“I think the overall market is still going to be there, and it’s going to be on the dependence of how individuals want it in relation to affordability to what the local markets do … because that’s very hard to predict 10 years out,” he said.
 
“No one can predict policy, but it will be important because cost of ownership becomes such that it (V8 Mustang) may not be a daily driver in those markets, as Italy demonstrates.
 
“Us as a V8 manual in the global world, how many other V8 manuals are out there in the global sportscar (market)? I know the answer – it’s zero.
 
“It’s not that we have to follow the trend … we can be successful in our own right.”

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