Rough News for Mustang

For Ford Mustang fans, it's tough enough getting beaten in the sales
race by the car's long-term rival, the Chevrolet Camaro.
Now the future of the Michigan plant that builds the Mustang is in
doubt.
Last week, Mazda Motor Corp. said it would pull out of the
AutoAlliance International joint venture with Ford Motor Co. The
AutoAlliance plant in Flat Rock, Mich., south of Detroit, builds the
Mazda 6 and the Mustang.
Mazda is leaving AutoAlliance because sales of the Mazda 6 have
plummeted. Through the end of May, Mazda 6 sales totaled 13,604, down
8.9 percent from the same period a year earlier.
In the first five months of this year, Mustang sales totaled 30,206
units, down 2.8 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, in the same
period, Camaro sales totaled 40,275 units, up 3.7 percent, as the
convertible body style joined the mix.
The problem is that the Mustang's sales, which totaled 73,716 units in
2010, aren't enough by themselves to make a huge factory such as
AutoAlliance with its 1,700 workers a profitable operation.
What are Ford's options?
-- Try to boost Mustang sales to help fill the plant. That's a tall
order. The Mustang just got a new powertrain lineup for the 2011 model
year and had been restyled for the 2010 model year. Fans speculate
that an independent rear suspension is in the works to replace the
live rear axle, but that could be years away, if ever.
-- Add another product to the Flat Rock plant to increase production.
That could come via taking on another joint-venture partner and adding
another Ford family product. Is there another use for the Mustang's
rear-drive platform?
-- Move Mustang production to another Ford plant. That's a
possibility, as Ford pushes to make all of its assembly plants as
efficient and profitable as possible. Over the course of its history,
the Mustang has been built in plants in Michigan, New Jersey and
California.
"The Mustang on its current sales pace isn't enough to sustain Flat
Rock," said analyst Jeff Schuster of J. D. Power and Associates.
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