Ford sees opportunity for Mustang as competitors abandon V8 engines


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2024 Ford Mustang
Source: Ford

DETROIT — Ford Motor sees opportunity to grow Mustang sales as it becomes the last American muscle car with a traditional V8 engine, playing to generations of gearheads who’ve been drawn to the performance vehicles.

The optimism comes after Mustang’s closest American competitors ended production of their muscle cars in December. General Motors stopped producing the Chevrolet Camaro, and Stellantis ended production of its Dodge Challenger V8 ahead of a new all-electric muscle car later this year, followed by gas-powered models with twin-turbo, inline-six engines that are expected in 2025.

Their exodus (and that of others in the muscle car market) is the result of changing consumer demand away from two-door cars, as well as tightening fuel economy standards and the emergence of all-electric vehicles capable of unrivaled acceleration.

Jeff Marentic, general manager of Ford Blue products, which includes the Mustang, said the pony car remains good business for the automaker both domestically and internationally. Mustang marks its 60th anniversary on April 17.

“We’re excited to continue to offer Mustang. It’s sad to see competition leaving but that’s beneficial to us,” Marentic told CNBC. “For people who are looking for a true American sports car, it’s available to them. … We’re looking and talking about the future of Mustang, and how far we can grow it.”

Ford Chair Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Farley converse in front of newly revealed Mustang Dark Horse at The Stampede in downtown Detroit on Sept. 14, 2022.

Marentic declined to discuss specific sales expectations for the vehicle but noted the company has added a new V8 model for the seventh-generation vehicle called the Dark Horse — a not so subtle reference to Ford’s ambitions for the V8-powered car.

Both the 2024 Dark Horse and Mustang GT are powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine, with the new model generating up to 500 horsepower and 418 foot-pounds of torque. Ford also has announced a 2025 Mustang GTD with a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine that’s expected to arrive as early as later this year with more than 800 horsepower.

Ford has been able to continue to sell Mustang V8 models in part because it has invested in making the vehicles more efficient and it was early to adopt smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder engines that now make up about 48% of Mustang sales in the U.S.

Ford also offers an all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover that features similar design cues and badging to the two-door coupe, but it shares little to no other characteristics other than the name.

“I can understand the green movement, but we’re so proud of our V8s,” Marentic said, adding the model accounts for a majority of Mustang sales in Europe. “It helps define who Ford is outside of the United States.”

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is presented at the New York International Auto Show, Manhattan, New York, April 5, 2023.
David Dee Delgado | Reuters

The seventh-generation Mustang, which Ford revealed in September, recently started shipping outside of North America. It will eventually be sold in 85 markets on every continent aside from Antarctica, according to Ford.

Non-U.S. sales have assisted in keeping the Mustang, which is exclusively produced at a plant in metropolitan Detroit, in production amid declining domestic demand for two-door sports cars.

U.S. sales of the Mustang have declined from a recent peak of more than 122,000 units in 2015 to fewer than 49,000 last year.

Internationally, Ford reports there have been more than 235,000 Mustangs registered since 2015. That’s when the automaker began producing right-hand drive models for countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

The top markets for Mustang outside of the U.S. are Canada, Australia and Europe, according to Ford.

“People relate extremely strongly to Mustang,” Marentic said. “The pull is amazing.”

Marentic declined to discuss future product plans for the Ford Mustang, including a hybrid that was reportedly canceled for the seventh-generation car or the potential for an all-electric version of the two-door vehicle.

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