Ford’s iconic Mustang was originally built to be the second generation of the Ford Falcon; but the line has proved so popular that it has become the only Ford “pony” car to remain in production for more than five decades.
The Mustang has gone through five different generations so far and its sixth generation will kick off with the 2015 Mustang, scheduled for its showroom debut in Fall 2014. The Mustang can never be considered an “exotic car,” as it is assembled amid a myriad of other Ford models. It has also been plagued through the years by part shortages and other problems, but it still has captured the heart of the American consumer.
With its blend of muscle and nationwide dealership availability since the early days, the Mustang is the quintessential everyman’s car. It can get the blood pumping seconds after you take hold of the wheel. Early Mustangs that were the best at this adrenaline rush also tended to be the best selling models for Ford.
The three bestselling years for Ford’s Mustang line came in 1966, 1965 and 1967, with sales of 607,500, 559,500 and 472,000 cars, respectively. These cars represented the best that Mustang had to offer in its first generation of vehicles.
The Ford Mustang made its debut on April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. To understand the magnitude of its popularity, remember that Ford arrived two months and nine days after The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and, while it’s no submarine, a Mustang sure looks good in yellow.
When the Mustang launched in the beginning of 1964, it received positive critical acclaim and even had a large boost from its appearance in the 1964 James Bond film, “Goldfinger.” Within the first 18 months of its life, Ford built more than one million Mustangs.
While the Ford Mustang was launched five months prior to the official beginning of the 1965 model year and these early Mustangs are officially 1965 models, Ford gave the Mustang some changes at the official start of the model year, causing enough of a split in the models that they're now differentiated as the 1964 1/2 and the 1965 models amongst enthusiasts. If counted together, the 1965 model would have sold roughly 686,000 units, but the changes were significant enough to justify the split.
The popularity of the 1965 model is what led to the 1966 model becoming the best-seller for Ford. Not much changed in terms of design between the two models, beyond the availability of additional interior and exterior colors. The 1966 Mustang also saw the first limited edition and specially modified Mustangs, a trend that continues today. Amongst these, some 800 Shelby GT350s were made, only six of which were convertibles with each getting its own color. These are the rarest Mustang convertibles made to date.
The 1966 coupe model still holds the record as the best-selling Mustang of all time, accounting for nearly 500,000 of that year’s sales. It remains one of the most-popular models as well, with many 1966 Mustangs still on the road today, although they travel to shows and parades more often than trips to the grocery store.
The Mustang has gone through a series of redesigns in its lifetime, the first of which was in 1967. As part of this redesign, the grille logo kept the running pony inside of a corral and the vertical and horizontal bars from the 1964 ½ model returned and with painted inlets on the body. The 1967 convertible was the first to use a two-pane glass rear window that folded down along with the roof. The fastback model was fully extended to the back, dropping the shorter-backed model from the year before.
The 1967 Shelby GT500 is still one of the most sought-after Mustangs on the market. It resurged in 2000 after the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” debuted. The movie’s “Eleanor” car sold for $1 million at auction in 2013. Also, famous from 1967 is the Shelby Super Snake, of which only one was made. It was able to top 170 mph.
If you're looking to get an idea of the Mustang's sales and how each model was received, it's best to look at yearly American sales. We've built a list of car sales by model year using data from Ford, as well as historical information from The Mustang Source, Edmunds Mustang History, RideLust, and Wikipedia's Mustang sales sources.
Ford hit a milestone in 2000 by selling around 215,500 Mustangs. This was the first time it broke the 200,000-unit ceiling since 1989. However, it’s unclear if these sales were made in the U.S. or if these sales include vehicles that were sold overseas.
When it comes to the Mustang, most pit it against the Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger. Despite some stumbles in previous years, the Mustang has been beating both in 2013.
In 2013, Ford sold an estimated 77,186 Mustangs, finishing a strong second, but down 7% compared to the year before. Chevy ended the year by setting an internal global sales record, which was helped by 80,567 Camaro sales for 2013.
The Dodge Challenger continued to limp behind, selling 51,468 cars in 2013, with just 2,872 coming in December. The Mustang had a solid finish, with its 5,727 December sales almost doubling the Challenger and beating out the 5,015 Camaros sold in that month.
To regain a positive sales momentum for the debut of its sixth generation Mustang, Ford is shifting gears to focus on the inside of the car, as much as its design and engine. It’s introducing a line of smart features that will come standard on the 2015 Ford Mustang.
One of the most innovative pieces in the new Mustang is the ability to set driver profiles. These allow the driver to fine-tune the response of the car, adjust the effort required to steer and the responsiveness of the throttle. Shift controls and a series of stability programs can be used for better handling on snowy or wet roads, sport tracks and other special cases.
Ford started the push with a large presence at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. At CES, Ford paid to be the “Official Car” sponsor and was on display in the Grand Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as on the showroom floor.
Ford is hoping that 2014 will be another year of great sales for its Mustang brand. Generational shifts have always done well with the brand, ranging from a 7% increase in sales between the third and fourth generations and a 285% sales jump from the first to second generation.
With innovation and brand recognition, the Ford Mustang is poised for continued growth in 2015 and will continue to be a brand close to American hearts.