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Muscle car wars heating up as 2011 Mustang orders surge


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Muscle car wars heating up as 2011 Mustang orders surge

02/25/2010, 6:14 PMBY MARK KLEIS

America is in the midst of a two-front war – on one hand there is a strong push for smaller, more fuel efficient cars, and on the other there is a resurgence of high-powered muscle cars. Americans haven’t enjoyed such a strong selection of high-horsepower engines since the muscle car wars of the mid-to-late 1960s.

The table was set

2009 was a year to rejoice for muscle car fans as America watched the return of the Camaro re-ignite the passionate debate between Chevy and Ford fans of whose muscle car reigned supreme. Of course, Dodge was not to be forgotten as its Challenger jumped into the ring with the most horsepower in the class.

The wars officially began in 2008 when Dodge released its brand new Challenger muscle car – available only in horsepower-heavy SRT8 trim, and for the first time since the end of production of the Camaro in 2002, the Ford Mustang had a direct competitor. By 2009, Dodge expanded the line to include V6 and R/T engine options, as well as manual transmissions. Also in 2009 was the sequel to Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. GM’s heavy branding of the movie resulted in some serious pent-up demand for its then upcoming 2010 Camaro, which burst onto Chevy dealer lots by April 2009.

The Camaro arrives

When the Camaro came onto the scene in April 2009 as a 2010MY car, it brought along with it two very impressive engines – a V6 rated at 304 hp and 29 highway mpg, and a V8 good for as much as 422 hp. At the time, these figures made the 2010 Ford Mustang’s 210 hp V6 with 26 mpg and the GT’s 310 hp V8 look quite dismal. But for 2011 Ford has upped the ante and jumped back into the ring with an all-new 3.7-liter V6 that turns out 305 horsepower and 30 mpg, along with the return of the venerable 5.0 GT – good for 412 horsepower.

“Fuel economy ranks among the top two reasons people choose vehicles,” said Steve Ling, North America car marketing manager. “With the 2011 Mustang lineup, we’ve found a way to offer even better fuel efficiency for V-6, GT and even Shelby GT500 performance drivers – while improving performance. And consumers are responding.”

But before Ford could get its new lineup of competitive engines on the road, in June 2009, the Chevy Camaro managed to outsell the Mustang on a month-by-month basis for the first time since October 1993. Ford managed to just barely hold onto the yearly lead, but only because the Camaro came to the market in April. Naturally, Ford has no intention of relinquishing its crown of the muscle car sales leader, and if early orders are an indication, they won’t have to.

Ford sees hope with the 2011 Mustang pre-orders surging

Ford just announced that the 2011 Mustang orders have already approached 11,000 in the first month since it became available for order. Ford says for comparison sake, that is three times the number of orders received for the refreshed Mustang in 2010 at launch. Worth noting, the new V6 is up 19 percent in share, to a total of 50 percent of all orders. This surge in V6 sales likely stems from the switch from what was generally considered a very dated and anemic V6 with dismal fuel economy to a class-leading V6 in terms of both power and efficiency (25 percent better fuel economy compared to 2010).

Interestingly, Chevy says that two out of three buyers of the Camaro have thus far opted for the V8-equipped SS model, moving in the opposite direction of Mustang buyers. One explanation is that Chevy has a smaller margin of price variation between the V6 and V8 models – making the roar of the V8 that much more tempting – despite the increased thirst that comes along with it.

In addition to the all-new 3.7-liter V6 and 5.0-liter 5.0 engines, Ford also swapped the iron block in the range-topping GT500 for an all-aluminum block, and as a result, has enjoyed a strong demand for that model as well. Ford says that roughly 9 percent of all orders for the 2011 Mustang were placed for the Shelby GT500. With a sticker price starting at $49,495 for the hardtop, and $54,495 for the convertible – Ford should enjoy the increase to their bottom line.

Muscle car wars go global

As if the muscle car wars for the 2011 models wasn’t going to be interesting enough, both GM and Ford have indicated that they will be taking their muscle cars global in the near future. Chevy looks to beat Ford to the punch, confirming just 10 days ago that the 2012 Camaro will be heading to Europe for the 2011 calender year. GM intends to offer both its existing coupe and upcoming convertible models for European consumption.

Ford also confirmed its plans to go global with its muscle car, but plans instead to use the redesigned 2014, 50th anniversary Mustang to be its foray into European Mustang sales. Ford’s delay is a calculated move, likely intended to give the automaker time to gauge the success of the Camaro before fully committing, and thus reducing the risk of a sales blunder. Two other major factors are the expected switch to a slightly smaller platform, along with the introduction of an independent rear suspension (IRS). These changes will make the next Mustang a better fit to traditional European tastes.



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