Ford pins hopes on 2005 Mustang
Iconic car won't be redesigned for several years
By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News
Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News
Kelly Greer, 39, a 14-year Ford employee, works on the assembly line at the AutoAlliance International Plant in Flat Rock. Ford says dealers have taken nearly 25,000 orders for the 2005 Mustang, which goes on sale next month.
Ford is betting that retro-styling of the new Mustang will age well on the road.
1964: World debut of Mustang at World's Fair in New York
1965: Shelby GT350
1969: Boss 302, Boss 429 and Mach I
1978: 5.0 King Cobra
1993: 1st SVT Mustang Cobra
1995: 1st SVT Mustang Cobra R
2001: Mustang Bullitt GT
2003: Mach I returns
2005: Fifth-generation Mustang debuts
FLAT ROCK - Get used to the look of Ford's new Mustang. It's going to be around awhile.
As Ford Motor Co. launched production of the 2005 Mustang on Monday in Flat Rock, company executives said the iconic pony car's design would remain virtually unchanged through the end of the decade.
Ford is betting that retro-styled Mustang will age well on the road. But the strategy could be risky considering most automakers tweak their car designs every year or so to keep them fresh. To stoke interest, Ford will introduce a special edition version of the Mustang every so often, said J Mays, the automaker's group vice resident of design.
"You will, for sure, see something different in '06, '07, '08 and '09," Mays said. "But they will be in limited volumes that will make people think, 'I need to get my hands on that.'"
The new design has received praise from analysts and enthusiasts for effectively marrying design cues from the 1960s with modern enhancements. The three-element taillights, for example, harken back four decades to Mustang's origins.
Still, one analyst expressed skepticism that any vehicles can compete in today's cutthroat auto market without periodic makeovers.
"There are some things that can keep that vehicle alive into 2005 and maybe even into 2006, but after that, the vehicle has such strong retro-styling cues, that type of design usually suffers from a very compressed product lifecycle," said Erich Merkle, a senior auto analyst with IRN in Grand Rapids.
Ford says dealers have taken nearly 25,000 orders for the car, which goes on sale next month.
Mustang is the last of eight new vehicles Ford is rolling out this year.
And its success is critical to the automaker's goal of generating full-year pre-tax earnings of $7 billion by mid-decade.
"Mustang not only sells itself, it sells other Ford products," said Jim Padilla, Ford's chief operating officer.
Padilla joined government officials, United Auto Workers leaders and employees Monday at AutoAlliance International Inc.'s Flat Rock plant, where Mustang is being assembled alongside the Mazda6 sports sedan.
Ford invested about $30 million in tooling for Mustang production and received more than $100 million in government tax breaks and training funds. Altogether, Ford and Japanese affiliate Mazda spent nearly $700 million to make the plant flexible enough to build up to six models on two vehicle platforms.
In addition to an all-new model, Ford faces other challenges on the factory floor to produce the new Mustang.
About 1,400 of AutoAlliance's 3,600-member work force are new to the factory after transferring from other Ford plants, such as the former Ranger pickup plant in Edison, N.J. They have received additional training to become better acquainted with the factory's flexible manufacturing methods.
The plant has a capacity to build up to 290,000 units annually, and Padilla said Mustang production could account for more than 193,000.
Ford executives say they have covered all the bases to guarantee a smooth rollout for the new Mustang.
"Launches are a very difficult time for almost any automaker because you're changing so much," Louise Goeser, Ford's vice president of quality, said. "I am absolutely certain about this vehicle."
In previous years, Ford struggled with quality glitches and recalls of new products. But Goeser said the automaker's quality has improved rapi
dly, citing a 30 percent decline in warranty costs since 2001 - a savings of more than $1 billion.
At AutoAlliance, Ford implemented quality control measures first adopted to launch the redesigned F-150 pickup. But for Mustang, it adopted a precision building method inspired by Mazda for assembly of the Mazda6.
Also at Monday's ceremony, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said the federal government would provide $6.3 million in new grants to help train auto industry workers on new production techniques.
"The $6.3 million in grants announced today will be used to train workers on the complex components of today's automobile manufacturing, as well as the electronic and diagnostic equipment and other high-tech systems needed to service them," Chao said.
"Mustang not only sells itself, it sells other Ford products," says Jim Padilla, Ford's chief operating officer.
2005 Mustang GT
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