Sedan and wagon models to join coupe as Ford builds on pony car’s strong brand
By GREG KABLE AND BOB GRITZINGER
Ford’s iconic Mustang is poised to play a crucial role in Ford’s future by expanding beyond its traditional role as a single performance figurehead into a complete range of global models. And the company’s Australian arm looks like the source for all the necessary hardware.
In a secret product planning meeting last fall, key Ford executives discussed a bold strategy to take the legendary Mustang mainstream. Ideas include both sedan and wagon variants of America’s original muscle car, with those cars joining the traditional coupe when the sixth-generation Mustang arrives in U.S. showrooms in 2011, AutoWeek sources say.
This is a sneak peek from the December 18th issue of AutoWeek.
Extending the Mustang lineup is based on the global strength of the brand, which some marketing experts consider potentially stronger than the Ford name itself. “It’s a case of reaching out to the men or women who keenly identify with the Mustang, but for various reasons—whether it be family, recreational or other—need a more versatile car than a coupe,” explained one prominent automotive industry con******t
familiar with the Ford plan. “As long as it’s great looking and sporty, then it doesn’t matter whether it has two or four doors.”
Ford’s decision to diversify the Mustang line isn’t without precedent. When Dodge brought back the Charger after a long hiatus, it successfully launched it in four-door sedan guise rather than as a coupe. Further back, BMW was roundly criticized for adding a sedan variant alongside the 3 Series coupe, but those complaints have since been drowned in the marketplace.
Not all the brand experts agree, however. Charlie Hughes, co-author of the book Branding Iron and keynote speaker at the upcoming AutoWeek Design Forum, thinks messing with Mustang may be a mistake.
“The minute they do a four-door, they really weaken the brand,” said Hughes. “I think it’s a high-risk strategy. They need to refine Mustang, not try to bastardize the whole product.”
Ford’s revitalized Australian arm will likely play a central role by developing a global rear-wheel-drive platform to underpin the future Mustang models, as well as other key Ford models. While we’ve illustrated a four-door Mustang here, rumors suggest Ford will foreshadow its plans with a Mustang-based Lincoln four-door at the upcoming Detroit auto show. Those same whispers suggest the Lincoln sports sedan will incorporate the independent rear suspension developed for the current Mustang, but scrapped as too expensive for the pony car market. The concept also telegraphs Ford’s plan for a five-link independent rear axle in a more sophisticated and lighter weight next-gen Mustang.