The Ford Mustang grabbed its passport and went overseas in 2015, crossing border after border as its parent company followed through on a plan to plunder (and grow) the right-hand-drive sports car market. Customers in Europe and China finally got a taste of pony car action as Mustang sales expanded to over 140 countries.
At home, the Mustang remains a strong seller, but the market’s growing distaste for passenger cars means even rear-drive coupes and convertibles with a storied heritage aren’t immune to volume loss. After reaching a post-recession U.S. sales high ofÂ 122,349 cars in 2015, Mustang sales fell toÂ 81,866 units last year. Volume over the first two months of 2018 is down 21.1 percent over the same period last year.
Not to worry â€” the Mustang’s European popularity is keeping executives in Dearborn happy, right? Well, European customers help, but they’re far from the model’s savior. Especially if they stop buying.
For some reason, Bloomberg changed the headline on its story of how Europeans are saving the Mustang. The original remains in its URL. To weigh the now-downplayed statement, we’ll have to take a look at some sales numbers.
Buyers in the Euro 20 countries (a market that excludes the UK) took home 15,335 Mustangs in 2016. A year later, the tally for 2017 was 13,100Â â€” a loss of over 2,200 vehicles. Euro 20 Mustang sales in January 2019 amounted to roughly 400 cars, some 600 or so vehicles fewer than the same month a year before. Neither the 2016 or 2017 calendar year saw the Euro 20 buy more Mustangs than the model lost in the U.S. over the same period, though you can chalk up the 2015 American sales surge to enthusiasm over the new, current-generation model. Last year, U.S. sales were pretty much unchanged from the 2012-2014 period.
In this context, yes, Europe is helping the Mustang, even more so if U.S. demand drops further while European volume stays steady (which it’s not).
In 2016, as Ford touted the Mustang’s brand-boosting European sales, the automaker said roughly 45,000 sales came from outside the U.S., meaning Europe (minus the UK) made up only a third of that tally. It’s a group effort. Canadian Mustang sales have risen every year since 2012, with 2017’s tally ringing in at 8,348 cars. China plays a large role, too, with 2017 sales rising 35 percent over the previous year (for 4,225 Mustangs sold). Still, China remains volatile. Amid a brand-wide slump that Ford attributes to fewer selling days, Chinese Mustang sales fell 27 percent, year over year, over the first two months of 2018.
Flinging the Mustang to the furthest reaches of the globe means the potential for greater overall sales, insulating the model from trouble back at home. However, while Europe plays a significant role, it’s nowhere near the same thing as Buick in China.