Why Isn't the Ford Mustang Selling Better?


Photo courtesy of MustangForums member PiggySmallz
mustang-vs-camaro-vs-challe.jpgby Patrick Rall

Sales numbers for the first six months have been fairly strong for the Ford Mustang, but with just 39,041 units through June 2011, the Mustang is on a decline in sales from last year, and until this most recent month, it has trailed the Chevrolet Camaro every month this year. 

In February of this year, the Mustang's sales were so low (3,697 units) that the Dodge Challenger came within a few hundred units of outselling it - something that has not happened in the modern age of the muscle car.  The Mustang is more powerful than ever, more fuel efficient than ever and the good looks appeal to buyers young and old...so why isn't Ford selling more Mustangs?

The biggest competition to the Ford Mustang is, of course, the Chevrolet Camaro.  The 2011 Mustang V6 makes 305 horsepower, 280lb-ft of torque and 31 miles per gallon where the 2011 Camaro V6 offers 312hp (soon to be 323hp for the 2012 model year), 278lb-ft of torque, and 28 miles per gallon.  This gives the Mustang an advantage in torque and fuel economy, while the Ford muscle car costs $495 less in its base form.  This gives the Mustang three out of four major categories in the entry level form, traditionally reserved for those buyers who want the look and not so much the power.

Next is the 2011 Ford Mustang GT, which makes 412 horsepower, 390lb-ft of torque, and as high as 26mpg, while the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS 426 horsepower, 420lb-ft of torque and yields just 24mpg.  The Camaro 1SS (entry level V8) comes with a price tag of $31,070 while the Mustang GT starts at $29,310 - giving the Mustang a price advantage of $1,760.  It should also be noted that while the 2011 Mustang GT has slightly less stated horsepower and torque, multiple tests have found the 5.0L V8 to be underrated and head to head tests have given the Mustang GT the performance edge over the Camaro SS.

After the Mustang GT, Ford offers the Boss 302, to which GM has no answer, and the 550 horsepower Shelby GT500, which GM also has no competition with, But that's about to change when the new Camaro ZL1 hits the market later this year.  This means that for the first six months of the year Ford has offered more options, lower prices and very comparable power, but it has still been bested every month in sales...so what is going wrong?

I spoke with Derrick Hawkins of Indianapolis, who was looking for a 2011 Ford Mustang GT.  After he read articles around the automotive world, talking about the new Mustang being available for under $30k, he began looking for one of these stripped down and low-cost models. 

Unfortunately, no dealership in the state of Indiana was able to come up with one of these sub-$30k Mustangs unless he wanted to go with a V6.  No matter what he did, he was unable to find a new Mustang GT under $32k, but when he went to a Chevrolet dealership, they quickly located him a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro 1SS, nicely equipped with a manual transmission (no leather), and they were willing to deal with him to get the price down to $31,000. 

Before pulling the trigger, he made one last attempt to find the elusive $29,000 Mustang and he was unable to find anything less expensive than the Camaro SS.

Because of that, Derrick ended up with his Synergy Green Camaro SS, and he loves it.  After speaking with him, I had a look around the Indianapolis area Ford dealerships on the internet and I found that the larger Ford dealers in his area are hard pressed to offer any Mustang GTs for under $32k and many are so optioned up that they are more than $41,000. 

However, I found that in the Detroit area, the 2011 Mustang GT is available in more stripped-down form, similar to those sub-$30k models that you can build on the Ford website.  The problem is that in some areas, the only options are to order and wait for an affordable Mustang or you have you have to pay top dollar for a heavily equipped model.  Those who want a stripped down 2011 Mustang GT with the powerful 5.0L, but who don't want leather, power everything and an elaborate sound system, are not able to walk into a dealership and check one out in person. 

While it is fine to check out a car in person then order something with a bunch of options deleted, many consumers want to walk in and see the car that they are going to buy prior to committing to it. And with nothing but loaded up, $41,000 Mustangs - the car is far less affordable than what we see on the Ford website.  Someone who is looking to spend under $30k for a car that they can take to the dragstrip on the weekend doesn't need all of the items that add cost and weight, but it seems that in some areas, the only way to get one of those models is to order it.

It seems to me that the problem is less with the 2011 Ford Mustang and more about the dealerships.  If dealerships are going to stock up on high priced Mustangs when Ford pushes the fact that you can get into a Mustang GT for under $30k, the dealership has to be willing to deal more with customers on the final price. 

If the dealership is less interested in bending on the price, they should be stocking at least one true, entry level Mustang GT for those who want the power but cannot afford all of the bells and buzzers.  The Mustang has an advantage in price - arguably the biggest issue in the battle of the muscle cars - but when the price that is available online is not acquirable in dealerships, consumers are pushed elsewhere to pull the trigger on their new purchase.  It would help the sales figures of the Mustang if the horsepower numbers were equal or closer to the Camaro, but in the long run, price plays a more major role in the modern auto industry. So, it would seems that dealerships may be holding the Mustang back.

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