Ford leans on global Mustang to burnish overseas image

Thu Dec 5, 2013 2:33pm EST
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By Deepa Seetharaman and Samuel Shen

DEARBORN, Mich./SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co unveiled its 50th anniversary Mustang sports car in its first global launch on Thursday, with a sleek redesign aimed at enhancing the brand's status outside the United States.

The second-largest U.S. automaker is betting that upscale touches will appeal to buyers in Europe and Asia, where the pony car will be sold for the first time in 2015. The new model features the trapezoid front grille that Ford has used to lend a more premium look its other global models.

"This was a chance to bring Mustang and actually lift the rest of the brand up with it," Ford's global design chief J Mays said on Thursday. The design change "helps us tie this car to the rest of the vehicles that we sell," he added.

The Mustang accounted for just 3 percent of Ford's U.S. sales during the first 11 months of the year, but it has an outsized effect on shaping the perceptions of Ford worldwide, Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said.

Fields, Chief Executive Alan Mulally and other top Ford executives unveiled the Mustang in six cities: Dearborn, Michigan, Shanghai, Sydney, Barcelona, New York and Los Angeles.

The 2015 Mustang will go on sale in the United States next fall. It will be sold in Europe in the first half of 2015 and in Asia in the second half.

The global Mustang comes as Ford seeks to build its brand outside North America. Dave Schoch, head of Ford's Asia-Pacific operations, said the Mustang would "enhance" the Ford brand in China, where the company is starting to gain ground after a slow start.

A new influx of buyers could also help Ford increase sales of its other high-performance and high-margin models, such as the Focus ST, in Europe, analysts said.   Continued...

Ford Motor Co. unveils its all new 2015 Ford Mustang in Dearborn, Michigan December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook