2015 Ford Mustang goes global: Glossed in translation

Ford counts on the 2015 Ford Mustang reflecting well in the global market.

Ford counts on the 2015 Ford Mustang reflecting well in the global market.

Ford is famously taking the 2015 Mustang global, selling it around the world not as an afterthought but designed as a world car, or at least as much as a world car a Mustang can be, to meet the needs and desires of enthusiast drivers around the world.

The look, we’re told, is more European, whatever that means. Supposedly it’s the more rounded curves and smaller headlights. At least it’s not—at least to American enthusiasts—a redux of the Ford Probe, the front-drive two-door coupe that was supposed to replace the Mustang in the late ‘80s but was reassigned at the last minute.

Also more attractive overseas is that the ancient live rear axle wound up on the scrap heap. Although Ford had kept the 1960s-worthy engineering around reportedly to keep the price affordable, Europeans were thought too delicate of heinie to endure a solid rear axle’s rough ride. Europeans are also more demanding about handling, we’re told, so while the Mustang gets all-new front and rear suspension, outward bound Mustangs will get uprated geometry, springs, shocks and bushings, all specifically modified on the European version for sharper handling preferred by European sports car drivers.

The V-6 engine will not be offered outside of North America, but rather just the turbo four, attractive in countries with high taxes on larger displacement engines and high taxes on gasoline, or the 5.0-liter V-8, appealing to those who can afford the initial price of a Mustang anyway. Although Ford hasn’t announced prices anywhere, popular prognosticators in Great Britain are guessing a starting price of about £30,000, or about $50,000 US.

Contrary to early reports, Ford did not “globalize the design,” though first designs did show a softer and “more sophisticated” shape, but the final design turned out more aggressive. As Moray Callum, Ford design chief, has been widely quoted, the new Mustang’s front end is “like a fist flying through the air.”

The change was not in spite of European sensibilities but rather, as outgoing Ford design head J Mays said, “The reason [Europeans] love it is because of its American-ness.” No doubt the 80-some Mustang clubs across Europe had some input on that.

Another indicator of Ford’s international intentions? For the first time, the Mustang will come down the assembly line with right-hand steering for those countries that drive on the wrong side of the road. Previously, an expensive conversion was required to drive in Australia, though more lenient rules in the U.K. allowed unmodified cars to be entered and driven with the driver on the left. The steering wheel on the right will make the Mustang more Brit friendly.

Another difference is the hood. It doesn’t look different, but Europe-bound Ford Mustangs will have “explosive springs” to meet pedestrian safety regulations. It’s a variation on the Irish saying. Instead of the road rising to meet you, it’s the hood that’s coming up, although from the cowl end, to keep pedestrians from hitting the engine through the hood or the windshield, both harder surfaces than the hood itself.

Ironically—for those with long memories—domestic Mustangs will get brighter headlights than the export-to-Europe versions because to have the same lights as American Mustangs, the Euro ponies would have to have washer/wipers, and that was nixed by Ford designers.

The British car enthusiast web publication Pistonheads.com looked at the Mustang in terms a possible purchase in Blighty:

“So would we buy one? Price of course is everything. North of £30,000 is a lot to spend on a Ford. Especially one that’s built to a cost to get base models in as low as £14,000 (the converted price of the current one). But at £28,000 for a 310hp turbo with a nice chunk of kit and leather? Maybe.

“IF (and it’s a big if) the dynamics come pretty close to, say, a BMW M435i, then it might become even more tempting. Mostly it comes down to the question: how American do you feel? On first introduction, the Mustang is still far more drive-thru cola than sit-down cappuccino.”

The Chevrolet Camaro has officially been sold overseas, though numbers have remained very small, and the Dodge Challenger makes its way to other countries—notably the Middle East— unofficially. While the Mustang will not arrive in the U.S. until later year, it won’t be in Europe before the first half of 2015. Ford expects Mustang exports to Europe to triple, which means to about 2,500.

As such, sales in the rest of the world barely make a ripple in Ford’s bottom line, and possibly even a negative impact. But the goal for the Mustang is not enriching the company directly, but rather raise awareness of the Ford name. “Ford Mustang inspires passion like no other car,” said Raj Nair, vice president of Ford’s Global Product Development division. “The visceral look, sound and performance of Mustang resonate with people, even if they’ve never driven one. Mustang is definitely more than just a car – it is the heart and soul of Ford.”

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford introduced the new Mustang at Ford’s special “Go Further” event to an audience of around 2,500 journalists, dealers and employees, in Barcelona, Spain – one of six cities across four continents where the new Mustang was simultaneously revealed. The Mustang convertible, in fact, was only shown in Barcelona, the reveal site for all Europe.

And there’s perhaps no way to Ford Mustang more global than that.