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US:Mustang sales off like a bullet

Mustang sales off like a bullet

By Earle Eldridge, USA TODAY

The 2005 Ford Mustang.
By Tim Dillon, USA TODAY

The redesigned 2005 Ford (F) Mustang appears to be a hit before it hits the street. Mustang, an icon among muscle-car lovers, has drawn more traffic to Ford Motor's Web site than any other vehicle ever, with more than 200,000 people supplying personal information to get brochures.

That's well ahead of the Ford Escape hybrid, the No. 2 vehicle on the Web site with 60,000 requests.

And although the Mustang doesn't go on sale until October and pricing hasn't been finalized, dealers have been swamped with deposits and orders.

"I've got 12 sold orders already," says dealer Frank Rodriguez of Greenway Ford in Orlando. "There is not a day that goes by without someone visiting our Web site or showroom asking about it."

At invitation-only events where Ford offers test drives of its new Five Hundred sedan, new Freestyle crossover-utility vehicle and the Mustang, people are waiting in line up to two hours to drive the Mustang.

"We had one gentleman who flew to Detroit from Knoxville, drove the Mustang and flew back home," says Paul Russell, Mustang marketing manager.

The new Mustang's styling draws heavily from the 1967 version, including interior treatment. But it also has a bold, aggressive stance that appeals to sports-car enthusiasts.

Ford says it will deliver a V-6 version of the Mustang for about $20,000 and a GT model with a 300-horsepower V-8 engine for about $26,000.

The Mustang coupe will be built first, with a convertible coming in the spring.

While Ford is confident that the 2005 Mustang will outpace its predecessor, which sold 150,000 last year, there are no grand illusions of topping 1966, Mustang's best year ever. With three factories pumping out Mustangs back then, sales topped 566,000.

A single plant, in Flat Rock, Mich., will build the 2005 Mustang. The plant has an annual production capacity of 300,000, but it also builds the Mazda 6 sedan, hatchback and wagon. Last year, the plant built 83,000 Mazda 6 models.

Ford executives are excited about the Mustang because twentysomething customers have shown interest.

"Quite frankly, we haven't had a lot of product that has drawn the attention of a new generation of buyers," Russell says. "Now, we get young people stopping us to take pictures of the car, and their eyes light up when we tell them you can get one for about $20,000."

But Mustang loyalists have been the biggest boosters.

Rachel Emmons of Alexandria, Va., ordered her 2005 Mustang GT several months ago to go along with her 1967 model.

"People ask me how much am I paying for it, and I say, 'I don't know,' " Emmons says.

She's president of the National Capital Region Mustang Club, which has about 450 members in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Emmons says she was hesitant to get the 2005 Mustang. "Then I sat in it and said to myself, 'Who am I kidding? I have to get this car.' "

She says several Mustang club members already have vehicle identification numbers for the 2005 Mustangs they ordered, and some of them know exactly where on the line their vehicle will be built. Emmons' Mustang will be the 835th built.

Ford likely has a home run with the new Mustang, says Bruce Belzowski, assistant research scientist for the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation. "The Mustang's retro look and retro styling have generated the kind of buzz that any car company would love to have."

But Belzowski says only time will tell if the buzz for the Mustang will spread to other Ford cars.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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