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The 2015 Ford Mustang is Ready to Go Global

Editor's Letter

Julia LaPalmephotographerMike Floydwriter

During its remarkable 50-year run, the Ford Mustang has seen its share of ups and downs, and it has elicited some frowns (ahem, Mustang II). It's gone from boulevard cruiser to big-block bruiser; crushed it at the dragstrips; raced and won thousands of times on all manner of circuits; and helped burnish the names Saleen, Roush, and Shelby. It's been a star on the silver screen more than 300 times, and smoked 'em long and loud at countless stoplights all over America. And now the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang is poised to run wild worldwide.

Students of Mustang history know this isn't the first time Ford's ponycar has been shipped off to foreign lands. If you're up on what a T-5 is, then you know. (Hint: It's a rebadged Mustang.) But the sixth-generation car, internal designation S550, has a mission far beyond what was attempted several decades ago. Ford wants the Mustang to be a global sports car player, and thanks to its One Ford efforts, it now has a chance to make that a reality. Built and shipped out of Ford's plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, the Mustang will come in both left- and right-hand drive and will be available in some 120 countries. Soon the sun will never set on the Mustang Empire.

"People all over the world have been waiting for this," outgoing Ford CEO Alan Mulally said during the new Mustang's reveal last December. "Without One Ford we couldn't have done it." Given that the first allotment of 500 cars slated for Europe sold out in 30 seconds, it seems as though the world is indeed waiting impatiently.

That the 2015 Ford Mustang will be on the slow boat to anywhere at all is due in part to the vision of Mulally, who saw a company that needed to become One in all phases of vehicle development. During his reign, he helped transform the automaker into a lean machine that is now capable of churning out cars, trucks, and SUVs that can be produced and sold just about anywhere on the planet Ford operates, with only slight modifications depending on market.

Once production of the new car ramps up nationally in 2015, here's betting sales will be way up with a bullet.

Ford's global Mustang strategy couldn't be coming at a better time. While sales were up 3.5 percent in August of this year versus last August, they were down by 7 percent to 77,186 for all of 2013, and the Mustang has been consistently outperformed by its main bogey, the Camaro. Once production of the new car ramps up nationally in 2015, here's betting sales will be way up with a bullet. How long they will stay up is the question, and that's why branching out beyond America's shores is so important.

Of course, there are risks to the One Ford strategy. The 2015 Mustang's sheetmetal, which was influenced by Ford's European design squad, hasn't exactly been well-received by the faithful, and that's being charitable. And in trying to appeal to 120 markets, Ford risks diluting a uniquely American brand.

But a car like the Mustang will ultimately be judged by how it drives. You can check out our first in-depth impressions of the car from West Coast editor Michael Jordan by clicking here. I was also able to score a brief run in a GT with the 435-horse, 5.0-liter V-8, six-speed manual combo we secured for our photo shoot, and I came away feeling good about the future of Ford's new pony. It bucked and roared when I mashed the throttle, the six-speed's operation was direct, it handled more like a modern sports car, and the interior is much improved. It still has elements of what made the car great, but with a contemporary flair, which should play well outside the U.S.

For 50 years (or 45, poor Mustang II), the Mustang has mattered to America. Will it matter to the rest of the world? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining if it survives another 50.

Check me out on Instagram or Twitter at @am_mikefloyd for photos, story links, and more on all things #noboringcars.