Camaro Still winning - Mustang sales not enough to sustain Flat Rock plant
DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co.'s Mustang is falling farther behind the Chevrolet Camaro as the top-selling U.S. sports car, jeopardizing a Michigan factory as designers work to win back the hearts of pony car fans.
Ford narrowly lost the crown in 2010 after a 24-year run, and the gap widened this year, with General Motors Co.'s revived Camaro outselling Mustang by 33 percent through May.
The 1,700- person plant in Flat Rock, Mich., has just one shift of workers, and its Japanese partner decided last week to pull out.
"The Mustang on its current sales pace isn't enough to sustain Flat Rock," said Jeff Schuster, an automotive analyst with researcher J.D. Power & Associates. "The Camaro has a more modern feel and seems to draw more attention from a younger age group."
The second-largest U.S. automaker is working to increase production of V-6 engines while its designers prepare for a new version in 2014 to restore its cachet. GM started selling a convertible version of the Camaro this year and says the Mustang is one of the top trade-ins for the Chevy sports car.
"They have a huge, loyal base with the Mustang," John Fitzpatrick, the Camaro's marketing manager, said in an interview. "We are starting to chip away at that."
Adding to Mustang's misery, Mazda Motor Corp. said last week that it plans to pull its Mazda6 model out of the Michigan assembly plant where Ford also makes the sports car. Ford, which owns half of the factory, said it is working with Mazda and the UAW to explore options for the "critical" site.
Not sharing the assembly line with Mazda will allow Ford to build more Mustang variations, said Steve Ling, the car's marketing manager.
"The flexibility that that provides is a good thing," Ling said in a June 14 interview, declining to give specifics on how Mustang production might change after Mazda leaves. "It's good to have options and that's what that scenario provides."
Even if Mustang manages to overtake Camaro, Ford will never sell enough of its muscle car to fill up Flat Rock, Schuster said. The factory has the capacity to build 240,000 vehicles a year, Mazda has said. Last year, Ford sold 73,716 Mustangs.
"Even with a boost from a redesign, because of what Camaro has achieved, you're still looking at sales volume for the Mustang below 100,000 a year," Schuster said. "The bottom line is something at Flat Rock will have to change."
Ford is to introduce a redesigned Mustang in 2014, said Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital in Chicago.
This year, Mustang sales have suffered because of a short supply of a new V-6 engine that gets 31 miles per gallon on the highway while generating 305 horsepower, Ling said. The Mustang shares that engine with the F-150 pickup, the centerpiece of Ford's top-selling truck line.
As rising fuel prices have driven up demand for the V-6 engine, Ling said Ford has chosen to apportion more supply to the F-150, among its most profitable models. The V-6 Mustang starts at a list price of $22,310, according to Ford.com.
"The V-6 powertrain that's shared with all of our hot products is really very popular right now," Jim Farley, Ford's global marketing chief, said in a June 9 interview. "We have a lower days' supply on Mustang, but we think that's the right way to run that business."
The V-6 engine shortage has left Ford with less than 30 days' supply of Mustangs, half the inventory it had a year ago, Ling said. Ford is now looking for ways to boost production of the V-6, which accounts for 51 percent of Mustang sales, up from 40 percent a year ago, Ling said.
"We're making sure that the truck has enough engines and obviously there is an impact to Mustang," Ling said. "The dealers feel we could sell more" if Ford had more V-6 engines.
GM is stepping up the pressure by updating the Camaro next month with a more powerful V-6 engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway, Fitzpatrick said. It also is updating the car's interior with new features like a smaller steering wheel, he said.
Rising gasoline prices and a stalling U.S. economy can't seem to slow down the Camaro, which went on sale in April 2009 after a seven-year hiatus. Camaro sales are up 4 percent this year, while Mustang is down 3 percent, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
"The Camaro is highly unusual in a segment that tends to be very fickle," said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive officer of auto researcher Edmunds.com. "Normally a sports car that's really hot fades fast."
To keep interest stoked, GM will advertise around the movie sequel "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," debuting June 29 and again featuring a yellow-and-black Camaro as a crime-fighting robot, Ling said. The Camaro known as "Bumblebee" has been the ride of actor Shia LaBeouf in all three Transformer movies.
"The linkage to Transformers has really helped create and build the brand Camaro," Schuster said, "especially with young people."
Early next year, GM plans to roll out a ZL1 Camaro with a 550-horsepower engine, matching Ford's Shelby GT500 version of the Mustang that starts at $48,810, according to Edmunds.
"It looks like they clearly targeted the GT500," Ling said. Much is riding on Ford's 2014 redesign of the Mustang, which Ling declined to describe. By then, Camaro will be five years old and more than a year away from its own restyling in late 2015, Schuster said.
"As the Camaro starts to age and the Mustang is redesigned, that will heat up the battle," Schuster said. "We see the Mustang regaining its No. 1 position when it's redesigned, but it will be close."
Hm, this is bittersweet.
I hope there aren't too many more jobs put in jeopardy in the auto industry. However, I think Ford need to take a hard look at their ancient rear axle setup. As a former owner of a 2005, and 2008 Mustang GT, I can say with some authority, that even my V6 Camaro is a much much more refined car, and is as quick point to point, because I have more faith in the car staying on the road at high speed.
"The Camaro has a more modern feel and seems to draw more attention from a younger age group"
Interesting comment... Most of the people I know with Camaros - myself included - wouldn't consider themselves "younger". Who exactly is buying Mustangs? Octegenarians???
Maybe the workers in Flat Rock should move to Oshawa...
Worrysome... but sounds familiar
Thanks for keeping an eagle eye to spot this and share it in the forum.
It makes me sad as, nowadays, every and any failing business operation, regardless of where it fails, delays worldwide economic recovery.
We are all in this together, and we are not out of the woods yet.
I do not know how many assembly plants are there for the Ford Mustang so it is difficult to fathom the total impact of this in the continued viability of that model.
However, I fully expected that one the "new era" muscle cars will face hardship, perhaps even demise.
It happened to the previous F-Body which folded in the 2002 model year.
We are lucky this resurrection of the CAMARO struck a deep fiber with auto enthusiast a has gotten such a strong return.
I will not write an obituary yet, but like they used to say in the tv series HIGHLANDER "In the end, there can be only one!".
Ford will be fine. The sales of the current generation Mustang may be slumping because of its body design, but it has several very well designed engines and a lineup of cars that in my opinion is the best looking lineup of any of the detroit 3. Ford can pull off a successful redesign. You can see it in their lineup. They just need to get it right for the next Mustang.
The Camaro is hot right now, but if GM doesn't offer as many options as Ford does in regards to accessories, options such as gears, navigation and even models (v6, gt, boss, gt500), the Camaro's sales will eventually slump. We are just lucky that most people consider the Camaro a better looking car today. Ford has been refining the Mustang since its inception. The Camaro is now a totally new design, it kicks butt, but don't be fooled. Ford isn't happy with being number #2, especially when the Mustang was the ONLY pony car to enjoy uninterrupted production.
When I went car hunting..I went to check out the mustang. I checked several dealerships. One had a beat up demo and a base v6. Thats it. They were selling so fast that they had no inventory to sell me..lol. They cant be doing that bad.
2011 Vehicles: Longest Days in Inventory
Rank Model/Year Days in Inventory
1 BMW Z4 161 Days
2 Volkswagen CC 143 Days
3 Hyundai Azera 133 Days
4 Mazda MAZDA2 120 Days
5 Mitsubishi Eclipse 119 Days
6 Ford Mustang 105 Days
7 Toyota Camry Hybrid 102 Days
8 Mazda MAZDA3 100 Days
9 Mazda MX-5 Miata 99 Days
10 Ford Focus 98 Days
BTW, that article says that Flat Rock (mustangs only plant that I'm aware of) is down to a single shift. So they can't get any lower without going part time and they still have one of the longest selling days of inventory. That means ford can't even sell the few that a single shift can build right now.
As much as I'd love to say "Suck it Mustang" -- I honestly can't.. Putting the smack down on a rival car is one thing, but I'm not going to cheer on the possibility of American workers being put in to unemployment just to brag on my own platform's success...
I'd rather they stay open and share the spot light with Mustang, than have even a single worker laid off..
i really hope people start buying the mustang. come on its faster ! lol
I have friends that work at the Mustang plant too and I agree. ^
I agree HumanWiki
yay for beating the mustang, not so much for the ppl whos jobs are in jeapardy... i want the camaro to be beating the mustang in sales, not thrashing it so badly that they stop making it. we need competition!!
Maybe GM could help Ford out by building Camaro's side by side with the Mustangs to keep the plant open.:)
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