Generally speaking, it’s important to take a calm, calculated approach to tinkering with your icons. If you stumble on a near-perfect formula, you stick with it. The original Ford Mustang was this way, and since its introduction in 1964, it’s had its ups and downs like many others. For its part, Ford doesn’t seem too concerned about building on its iconic vehicles, as the Mustang, the F-150, and the Explorer have all gotten significant updates. Thankfully, it seems to be working out.
While the F-150 struggles with frame shortages, the revived Mustang is hitting its stride as we come into the warmer months. Sales for the new coupe soared 40% for the month of May to over 13,000 units, yielding its best May and year-to-date sales results since 2007.
“Year-to-date, Mustang sales are up 55%, with a 116% increase in southern California, America’s largest sports car market,” Ford said. “The 2.3-liter EcoBoost [four-cylinder] engine is now that market’s best-selling Mustang engine,” it added. The engine is new for the 2015 model year.
Through May, Ford sold 56,571 Mustangs. That’s a 55% spike versus the first five months of last year and a stark contrast to the Chevrolet’s Camaro, which sold 33,982 vehicles for a 13% decline, Bloomberg’s Kyle Stock noted.
“Some of this can be explained just by people waiting for next year’s Camaro,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kevin Tynan was quoted as saying. “But a lot of it is also the new Mustang just being really good.”
Dodge’s Challenger, which notably hasn’t gone under any significant updates (if you exclude the addition of the Hellcat), brought up the rear of the Big Three, selling 30,166 vehicles so far this year, a spike of 38%. But its position on the bottom rung might not be sealed — as the 2016 Camaro nears, and anticipation builds, the current Camaro will continue to falter until the next model is released with more power, less weight, and the same badass looks that won its fans over in the first place.
“I always think of it in political terms,” Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran told Bloomberg. “There’s 40% of the market that would never think of leaving Camaro and 40% that will always buy a Mustang. But that 20% in the middle is the swing vote.”
It’s arguably not a surprise that the Mustang is taking its cake and eating it too. It was the first model to really break from pony-car tradition, riding on an updated platform that’s more in BMW M-territory than the iron sleds that held up the muscle cars of yore. It’s the first Mustang in decades to pair with a turbo-four, the first without a solid rear axle, and the first to come with line lock, which keeps the car in place while the driver roasts the rear tires.
Ford’s new ‘Stang is also the first iteration of the car to be sold in volume in international markets. This meant that the new car had to attract both American muscle fans and more discerning European enthusiasts, a balance of appeal that could quickly go awry. Fortunately, Ford seems to have found its stride. It’s sleek but still retains the old-school Mustang shape, and it’s likely going to set the blueprint for the pony car battles from here on out.