November 12, 2004
Mustang Fever, All Over Again
By LISA KALIS - NY Times
PRIL JOYCE had never felt this way about a car before. For almost two years,
she followed the advance photos and reviews on the newly redesigned 2005
"The first time I saw it, I knew I had to have it," she said last week.
Starting even before the car was released in October, said Ms. Joyce, 31, an
accounts receivable manager from Alabaster, Ala., she contacted 30 dealers
in two states to check inventory and prices. When she heard that a local
dealer had a Mustang, she rushed over to see it, but found she wasn't
alone - "the people were standing two and three deep."
Ms. Joyce still hadn't found exactly the model she wanted - a manual V-6 in
black or silver - and she said she planned to order one if something did not
turn up soon. The wait "hasn't killed me yet," she said, "but it's getting
The release of the new Mustang has set off a stampede of interest across the
country. Many point to its retro style, three years in the making, with cues
from the 1960's and 70's. Some cite the upgraded V8 engine, with greater
horsepower than last year's model. There's the fairly affordable price,
starting at $19,410 for the V-6 and $24,995 for the V-8 GT. But Ford appears
to have tapped into something else: an emotional reaction strong enough to
turn some buyers into auto stalkers.
"They're physically following the truck in and saying, `I'll take that car,'
" said Brian Carlson, fleet sales manager at Earnhardt Ford in Tempe, Ariz.
The dealership received and sold 10 Mustangs in two weeks. The cars that did
not sell right off the carrier were on the lot for two days at most.
Kathy West, a computer support technician from Hope Mills, N.C., was driving
to a furniture store one evening last month with her husband, Ryan, when
they spotted a yellow V-6 at a dealership. "Ryan said, `Turn around! Turn
around!' " she recalled.
Less than three hours later, they had traded in her Ford Explorer S.U.V.,
bought the Mustang and driven it home - a purchase that Ms. West, 33, hadn't
even considered until she saw the car. She did take a test drive before
buying, but they didn't leave the lot to make a decision. "We both knew it
wouldn't be there when we came back," she said. The only problem: "It was
really dirty. Everybody had their fingerprints on it."
She was lucky to find a Mustang. McCarville Ford in Centereach, N.Y., has
presold its entire allotment of Mustangs through January - just 15 cars. "I
could sell a lot more if I could get them," said Mike McCarville, the owner.
To make sure he has something to show the dozen or so gawkers who turn up
every day, he doesn't let the new owners take their cars home until the next
shipment comes in.
With supply limited so far, buying early has disadvantages. Forget about
making a deal on the price. Paul Russell, a marketing manager at Ford, said
that many cars are selling for $1,500 over the sticker price. Last week,
nearly 20 dealers were auctioning new models at eBay Motors for thousands
more than manufacturer's suggested retail price.
Over the last two decades, Mustang's annual sales have fluctuated - 225,290
in 1980, down to 80,247 in 1991 and back to the mid-100,000 range for the
last four years, according to Autodata, an auto market research firm. As of
last week, Mr. Russell said, dealers had already ordered 42,000 Mustangs for
this model year.
The cars should be more available in the next few months, and shoppers will
have the option of a convertible this spring, as well as different trim
levels and more engine choices.
Interest in the new Mustang has been building for some time. Early drawings
and photos appeared in car magazines and on car-related Web sites by late
2002. In 2003, concept models of the coupe and the convertible made the
rounds at auto shows around the country, generating plenty of interest.
"Some of the regional shows were upset because we didn't have enough of the
prototypes to go around," Mr. Russell said. "It was our most requested
vehicle."A production model appeared at the shows in January of this year,
and that same month, interest was high enough for dealers to begin taking
OF course, Mustang also has the benefit of a 40-year history - and a corps
of romantics who have always loved the car for its early image of power and
"People go to showrooms just to see the Mustang," said Joe Barker, a manager
at the auto research firm CSM Worldwide, "even if they're not a serious
That group includes Arthur Ferron, 58. When he passed a red '05 at a
dealership, he quickly made a U-turn for a closer look. Apparently he wasn't
the first. "The salesman had seen me through the window - he laughed and
said, `You just had to turn around, didn't you?' " said Mr. Ferron, an
advertising production manager from Manchester, Conn. "All I wanted to do
was sit in one."
When Robb Anderson, 24, heard there was a new GT with a manual transmission
at his local dealer, he also had to take a look. He wasn't planning on
buying, but two days later he traded in his 2003 Mustang for the new model.
"It has the classic muscle-car look to it," Mr. Anderson said. His new
Mustang is his third, and his favorite by far. His first, when he was 16,
was a 1988 four-cylinder automatic. "That was barely a Mustang," he said.
Last year's line hasn't been totally forgotten yet. With all of the
incentives and discounts, a 2004 Mustang can sometimes go for $5,000 less
than a 2005 model. For two weeks in late October, 2004 sales at Earnhardt
Ford were in the "double digits," Mr. Carlson said. But he thinks the price
isn't the only factor convincing some buyers to pass up the redesigned
Mustang. "Some people don't like the retro styling," he said.
No one will be safe from the marketing campaign. On Oct. 29, Ford introduced
a commercial starring a digitally recreated Steve McQueen, star of the 1968
movie "Bullitt." (Mr. McQueen, who died in 1980, drove a Mustang fastback GT
in the film's famous car-chase scene.) Over the next few months, the new
model will appear in TV shows like "Alias," "The O.C." and "American Idol."
"The airwaves are going to be inundated," Mr. Russell said.
Perhaps the old "Bullitt" fans aren't regular viewers of "The O.C.," but
there is diversity among the people showing up at dealerships to buy
Mustangs. "We see people from the 60's who grew up with them, and want to
recapture their youth," said Ed Duquette of Vista Ford in Woodland Hills,
Calif. "Then we see younger buyers, because there isn't that much
competition in the factory sports car segment."
And there are the loyal Mustang enthusiasts, like 47-year-old Michael
Hesslink. He ordered his in mid-October and expects to have it by the end of
the year, bringing his number of Mustangs to four. (His garage also holds a
2002 Roush, a 2001 V-6 and a 1970 Mach 1.) He plans to make the new model
his everyday driving car. Still, Mr. Hesslink, an airplane safety instructor
from Middleburg, Fla., has other hopes for the new model.
"Mustangs are great investments," he said. "I think it's going to be the
same way 35 years from now. This will be the car everyone's looking to fix
Yet another $.02 worth from a proud owner of a 1970 Mach 1 351C @
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