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Mustang Sales Down

March 18, 2007

Mar 6, 2007 by: Detroit News

DETROIT -- The latest version of Ford's iconic Mustang appears to be growing old, and back-to-back monthly sales declines to start 2007 have the struggling company a little worried.

The new Mustang, which made its debut in the fall of 2004, has been a bright spot for Ford at a time when bright spots have been few.

So when Mustang sales dropped by 19 percent in January and February compared with the same months in 2006, company officials became a little concerned.

"It's gotten our attention because when a high volume product like that declines as much as that, we want to see what we might want to do," said George Pipas, Ford Motor Co.'s top sales analyst.

A drop in Mustang sales should be a worry for Ford. Overall U.S. sales slipped 8 per cent last year. The company sold 160,975 Mustangs in 2005 and 166,530 in 2006, big numbers in the mid-size sports coupe market, a segment considered to be a niche.

"It did phenomenally well for a while, due in part to (it being) really the only car in the segment," said David Lucas, vice-president of Autodata Corp. "It was exciting. It appealed both to young people and the people who remember what the Mustang used to be."

Pipas said even Ford was surprised at the car's staying power when sales continued to grow last year, though it is during the second full year when sales usually begin to decline for most models.

It could be too soon, however, to write of Ford's Mustang, Pipas said.

"Two months is hardly a litmus test for the entire year, particularly when the two months aren't big sales months for anything, let alone two-door sports coupes," he said.

Still, Ford is working to keep the Mustang fresh with new variations that keep the car exciting, as well as gearing up new promotions heading into the spring and summer, traditionally the Mustang's best sales months, said spokesperson Alan Hall.

The company just began shipping new versions of a Shelby GT Mustang, and sometime next year, it plans a dark-green "Bullitt" version reminiscent of the 1968 Fastback Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in the classic movie.

"We have other things up our sleeve that we can't talk about that you'll see midyear," said Hall.

Cars with sportier body styles like the Mustang traditionally have shorter life cycles than more conventional cars, said Tom Libby, J.D. Power and Associates' senior director of industry analysis. The Mustang, because of its name and status, has defied that at times, Libby said.

Still, Ford must do everything it can to protect the Mustang's turf, he said.

"That model is a core model for them," he said.


- After two strong years, sales of Ford's Mustang sports car dropped 19 per cent in January and February compared with the same months of 2006.


- Several industry analysts say the car, which debuted in the fall of 2004, has been on the market a long time in a segment where buyers value the latest style. Company officials say it could also be wintertime sales blues.


- Ford says it will come out with several variations of the car to keep it fresh until a new one arrives. They won't say when that will be, but the Dodge Challenger will enter the market in 2008 and the Chevrolet Camaro in 2009.

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