Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) discontinued the sale of most of its car brands in the United States as the popularity of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks hurt the business. One car was spared. The Mustang, which has been Ford’s flagship sports car for decades, will remain on dealer floors. Its staying power was demonstrated as Mustang production hit the milestone of 10 million sales. The news was ironic as Ford tries to press into electronic and autonomous cars, without much success so far.
The Mustang was the dream child of auto titan Lee Iacocca, who was later fired by then Ford CEO Henry Ford II. The car sold far better than expected and was one of the greatest hits in Ford’s history.
As milestones go, this one is huge. Just a little more than 54 years after the first Ford Mustang was unveiled at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the 10-millionth one rolled off the assembly line. It’s been an amazing journey, as Mustang has solidified its place in American automotive history – the sport coupe for everyone.
While Ford makes an inexpensive Mustang that gets good gas mileage, the car is and has been a symbol of America’s big V8 engines and the horsepower and speed they produce. The Mustang most people know is the one that guzzles gasoline at a remarkable rate.
The least expensive Mustang costs $26,120, has a little EcoBoost engine and gets 31 miles per gallon in highway driving. Further up the Mustang food chain is the Bullet, an updated version of the one used in the 1968 movie that starred Steve McQueen. It has a massive five-liter VB engine. For $46,595, a driver gets a car that puts out 460 horsepower, but highway mpg drops to 25. Even higher up the food chain is the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, which puts out over 700 horsepower. Ford has not listed highway mpg, but likely it is under 15.
The new CEO, Jim Hackett, made the announcement as he stood next to a version of the Mustang made in 1965, its first full year of production. Based on his goals for Ford, it would have been better if he had stayed away and spent time at one of the research facilities working on Ford electric cars. If people keep buying Mustangs in large numbers, it undermines what he thinks Ford has to become in the next decade.