Curious new trends push Ford Mustang to pony car dominance in 2015
Die-hard fans will typically opt for the 5.0-liter V-8, and wouldn't fathom a pony car with a four-cylinder engine.
But they are not the only Mustang buyers, Ford knows.
Armed with data from J.D. Power, the Dearborn automaker said it has discovered some trends that bode well for its signature pony car in an already hot sports car segment.
The data says that buyers ages 16 to 35 years old account for 47 percent of market share for 2015 Mustang versus 30 percent for 2014 model.
Ford points to its 310-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine as the reason for the expansion among that demographic.
It is reminiscent of the Ford Probe, company spokesman Chris Terry said.
When the Ford Probe came out in 1989, Ford had mulled replacing the Mustang with the compact sports car. It sounds absurd, but this was a trend at the time: buyers were going for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars like the Acura Integra and Toyota Celica.
The popularity of the Ford Probe with younger buyers then now mirrors the EcoBoost Mustang's resonance with buyers of today, Terry said.
"These young guys don't want a V-8 all the time," he said. "So that's exactly what's happening here years later."
The good news for Ford, and indeed other automakers in the pony car segment, is that loyalists have been buying the heftier-engine models, too.
Through the first three quarters of 2015, total sales of the Mustang have jumped 61 percent over the same period in 2014 to 96,225 units, putting it at the top of the Detroit Three's pony cars in terms of sales volume.
For the Dodge Challenger, sales rose 35 percent year-over-year in the first nine months of 2015 to 51,949 units.
During that same period, sales of the Chevrolet Camaro dipped 12 percent to 61,544 unit,s though Chevy unveiled a new, sixth-generation model that is set to hit dealerships soon.
There is a geographical trend that Ford is excited about, too. Mustang sales are taking off in Southern California, and buyers there appear to favor the EcoBoost model.
"According to J.D. Power PIN data, the conquest rate for EcoBoost Mustang is just over 56 percent in Southern California," said Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst. "Almost all of our Mustang growth there can be attributed to EcoBoost."
The Mustangs are moving quickly too, something the company said underscores the demand for the pony cars there. J.D. Power says Mustangs sit on dealer lots for just 16 days in Southern California, compared with the industry average 60 days.
What does that mean for the rest of the country? Terry said Southern California is seen as a trend-setter.
But regardless of where the rest of the country looks for car-buying cues, Terry said the growth in Mustang sales there bucks a trend Ford and other domestic automakers had been accustomed to: younger buyers in SoCal have typically favored foreign nameplates.
Terry concurred that Ford had been somewhat concerned about losing some purists when the company added the four-cylinder engine option to the Mustang stable of the 5.0L V-8 and the 3.7L V-6.