Mustang swagger pushes pony cars past 10 million

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
The first Mustang in1965 prepares to make a formation to spell out 10 million. Ford Motor Co. is celebrating its 10 millionth Mustang. It's a milestone achievement.

Flat Rock — Ford Motor Co. on rolled its 10-millionth Mustang off the line Wednesday at Flat Rock Assembly Plant. The landmark achievement was driven by consumers' passion for the muscle car, officials said.

Jim Farley, Ford's president of global markets, called it the Mustang swagger.

"Our most successful products are the ones that go just beyond a functional requirement," Jim Farley, president of global markets, said in an interview. "The Mustang swagger is something we're going to bring to all our crossovers and utilities."

That attitude was present at an event Wednesday that brought out line workers and dozens of Mustangs to celebrate that 10-millionth vehicle. Mustangs from 1964 onward were arranged in the parking lot to spell out number "10,000,000." The very first Mustang and the most recent Mustang were the commas. 

The crowd ogled the pony cars as the owners revved their engines. Farley told the crowd about his own black 1966 Mustang that he bought for $500 and drove — at 14 years old — across the country.

But it was Darryl Goodwin, assistant to United Auto Workers Vice President Rory Gamble, who got the line workers to puff out their chests a bit.

"Those other guys talk about their sports cars," he said. "But we love our Mustangs."

Farley and other leaders at the Blue Oval are trying to garner similar enthusiasm for other Ford products as the automaker readies several new vehicles to bring to market in 2019.

"Mustang represents Ford at its best," Farley said in an interview. "Mustang has given me and everyone at Ford the confidence to emotionalize our products (and) lean into the space away from cars as commodities, to drive pride and connection to a vehicle."

But it takes time to build brand equity like the Mustang's. Ford's been cranking out GTs, fastbacks, convertibles, special editions and other versions of the pony car for more than 50 years. What came off the line Wednesday was a 460-horsepower V-8 GT convertible in Wimbledon White with a six-speed manual. That's a big difference from the 164-horsepower three-speed that was the first Mustang built in 1964. 

Ford has that brand recognition in pieces, Farley said. F-Series is the country's best-selling pickup. Ranger is gaining recognition around the world, and has a highly anticipated return to the U.S. slated for early in 2019. Ford's Focus RS has a cult following in Europe. 

But other nameplates have struggled to elicit an emotional response like Mustang, according to Farley.

Farley, CEO Jim Hackett and President of Global Operations Joe Hinrichs have said at multiple events this year that Ford is going to continue its push into performance-oriented models by beefing up the number of nameplates carrying the ST badge, and also offering more off-road models.

Those models would serve to boost the cachet of the new and refreshed Ford nameplates. Redesigned Lincolns and a refreshed Edge will hit showrooms through the second half of the year.

Said Farley: We need to "execute products in an emotional way."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau