Ford Continues to Beat Mustang with its Brand Mismanagement Stick

Ford leaked its plans for the 2011 Mustang. As with all leaks, the content must be taken with a grain of salt. Oftentimes leaks are nothing more than a means of getting feedback from the world before too much money is spent.

My eyes were drawn to the computer-generated photo rendering of the proposed 2011 pony. Instantly I was impressed with the ultra-modern lines, the cutting-edge angles and the very original appearance. Nothing retro about it! Indeed, the coupe could have just as well been wearing an Acura, Scion or BMW badge.

Maybe Ford finally started taking to heart my constant grumblings about the pitfalls of going retro. Without going into too much detail (I’m saving this for when the official production numbers come out in a couple weeks,) the retro Mustang has proven to be a total failure in increasing the model’s market.

The competition in this segment just keeps getting tougher, so a thoroughly modern, high-tech, youth-oriented Mustang is just what the doctor ordered!

But…and there always seems to be a “but” with Ford larger than one found on the season premier of Biggest Loser, I started to read more of the report, Ford is planning on expanding the Mustang to include a sedan and a wagon! Evidently, Mustang has such high name recognition and brand loyalty that they feel adding a pony-sedan and pony-wagon is the ticket.

Am I the only one who thinks they’re putting “dipshit pills” into the water in Michigan?

Please don’t lump me in with all the Mopar bums who crapped rams horns when the 300-based Charger came out with four doors. That was about reviving a long-dead model with no modern history. It cost D-C little money to make the Charger…and they’ve sold over 100,000 this year.  They made money — so mission accomplished.

This Mustang issue is completely different.

We all need to put on our marketing hats now. Ford points to the Mustang’s high loyalty and great name recognition. That’s fantastic, and I applaud Ford for creating a legend. But here’s the issue: the Mustang’s image and recognition are as pony cars (although most consumers would call them muscle cars, and that’s fine.) The market views the Mustang as a sporty/performance-oriented two-door coupe or convertible.

Creating a four door Mustang doesn’t expand a strong brand, it dilutes one of the only solid images Ford has left!   And a wagon? C’mon is it worth the risk for a market that includes really only the Dodge Magnum’s whopping 39,000 units this year!?!?! (We’ll even be generous and throw-in the Subaru Impreza Wagon’s 17,500 annual units into the available pie, too!)

There’s certainly no questioning why Ford managers want to pursue this option. First, they see the hugely successful performance sedan market . But let’s be crystal clear here – no Mustang, be it a two door or four door, has a snowball’s chance in hell of competing against the BMW 3-series, Infiniti G, Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Evo.

Secondly, they have no sedan to compete against the Camry, Accord…or even Hyundai.
This is the saddest part, because they were squarely in the lead with the Taurus (in sedan and wagon forms) when they gave up to pursue the huge profit margins of Explorers and Expeditions. Mustang sedan and wagon offerings, however, simply would be seen more  as niche players – oddities of sorts ala an Aston Martin Rapide.

Instead of using gimmicks like retro looks, or relying on a known name like Mustang to try to lure people back to buying Ford sedans and wagons not called cross-overs or SUVs, maybe the company should try doing something really creative: start making midsize (and full size, for that matter) sedans and wagons that are high-quality, look good, deliver wonderful driving dynamics, promise high reliability, are wonderfully optioned, offer competitive pricing, and are backed up by top-tier sales and service operations.

Then they could name them whatever they want and people will buy…and instead of diluting the Mustang brand, it will strengthen it!

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3 Responses to Ford Continues to Beat Mustang with its Brand Mismanagement Stick

  1. Hemidakota says:

    Competition against the Camry and the Accord? Hmm…I guess you never heard of the Ford Five-Hundred.

    Please research prior to story.

  2. Hemidakota — You guessed wrong, and we’re happy you didn’t research prior to your comment.

    We’ve heard of the Ford Five-Hundred here. Actually, at over 200-inches long, the Five Hundred is targeted at and competes in the full size and what might be considered “large midsize” segment, not standard midsize. It is supposed to do battle with the Toyota Avalon, Buick Lucerne, Chevy Impala, Acura RL-ish vehicles — not Camry, Accord. The Fusion is Ford’s entry in the Camry-Accord battle.

    BUT since you brought up the Five Hundred, we’ll start there. Our view on the model is the same as most of the world’s: it’s just not good enough to be viewed as reasonable competiton in the sedan market. Ford knows this, too.

    After a record-high sales of 107,000 units in 2005 (its first full year of production,) the Five Hundred is on pace in just its second year in 2006 to fall short of 80,000 cars — most of which are going to fleet sales, the remainder to consumers carrying deep factory incentives.

    As for the Fusion, it’s on pace to sell a 137,500 cars in 2006 — which does not seem horrible, until one considers that a) this is its first full year, meaning sales go down from here and b)Ford’s Taurus is on pace to sell 180,000 Taurus units this year, and they don’t even market those anymore!!! (All fleet sales)

    In stark contrast, Toyota is on pace to sell over 440,000 Camrys in 2006(compared to about 420K last year.) Honda will deliver 346,000 Accords — all based on a long-in-the-tooth design this year, as well. Keep in mind that Toyota and Honda have much smaller percentages of low-profit fleet sales, as well.

    For our next trick we’ll discuss that your screen name, Hemidakota, is Hemi in name only, and that you really don’t have hemispherical combustion chambers, for which the “Hemi” got its name…Coming to a Four Wheel Drift posting soon.

  3. Mike Barer says:

    Most would agree that Mustang has had it’s hits and misses. I just don’t see it as a model with a 50 life span.

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