Saturday, July 07, 2018

Some insight into why Ford created the Mustang

As told by Robert A. Fria in Mustang Genesis: The Creation of the Pony Car, a Ford PR specialist made two observations in 1960: two-car families were increasing in popularity, and Baby Boomers would create huge marketing opportunities once they scored their licenses. Subsequently, Lee Iacocca organized an exploratory committee to look into developing a product that would embrace the demographic of people 18-36 years old.

The committee discovered this demographic would command 50 percent of sales by the end of the 1960s, with strong demand for four-speed transmissions and bucket seats. Observed Iacocca, “All the things youngsters want in a car are available on the market today — but not in the right combinations. They wanted the appeal of the Thunderbird, the sporty look of the Ferrari, and the economy of the Volkswagen. But you cannot buy a T-Bird for $2,500, get exceptional gas mileage in a Ferrari, or get whistled at in a VW. What they wanted, really, was a contradiction in terms.”

So Ford now had confirmation there was a group big enough to create a sporty car with youth appeal, but how to reconcile this “contradiction in terms”? The committee created four profiles: (1) two-car families with money to spend; (2) young drivers with little to spend; (3) women interested in something stylish yet economical; and (4) enthusiasts looking for a new toy.

This research manifested itself with the Mustang’s April 17, 1964, introduction at the New York World’s Fair. The new model succeeded in its mission as an affordable sporty coupe featuring long hood/short deck styling; practicality with economical, proven Falcon underpinnings; an option list longer than a Liverpudlian’s mane; and a price point attractive to plenty. True, the Plymouth Barracuda beat the Mustang to market by several weeks, but the foal had solid marketing behind it, which was why it became a phenomenon while the Barracuda floundered.

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