The year was 2005. The all-new Ford Mustang was released as a retro take on an iconic car at a time when retro interpretations of iconic cars were still welcome. The fifth-generation Mustang was destined for inevitable success, a massive sales uptick after the decade-old fourth-gen Mustang grew tired and stale.
Indeed, sales of the new Mustang were more than five times stronger in Canada in 2005 than sales of the departed Mustang in 2004. No surprise.
At that time, however, the Mustang was free from direct competition. Production at GM’s Quebec assembly plant ended in 2002, finalizing the run of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. The Dodge Challenger had yet to be reborn. It was only natural the Mustang would soar.
But fast-forward a dozen years and yet again, we’re seeing a Mustang sales explosion. Only this time, the circumstances aren’t nearly as beneficial to Ford’s pony car.
In mid-2017, the Mustang isn’t a brand new car. The sixth-gen car was launched for the 2015 model year. Plus, competitors are widely available. Canadian sales of the Dodge Challenger are up 8 percent through the first seven months of 2017; Chevrolet Camaro sales have risen 18 percent. In fact, that Camaro is the newer muscle car design, launched in sixth-gen form for the 2016 model year.
Moreover, the sporty car market has taken a turn for the worse in recent years as the car market overall fades away. Passenger cars accounted for 54 percent of the new vehicles sold in Canada in 2008. That figure is now at 33 percent.
Across the sports car spectrum, there are numerous examples that highlight just how difficult it is to sell an impractical, fun-oriented car in a pragmatic, crossover-friendly market. Porsche is on track for a five-year Cayman low. Mercedes-Benz SLC sales are 56-percent lower than SLK sales were a decade ago. Jaguar F-Type volume is down by a third this year. Hyundai is letting go of the Genesis Coupe. The Toyota 86 (née Scion FR-S) is on track for its fourth consecutive year of decline.
And yet Ford Canada is on track to sell more than 8,000 Mustangs in 2017 for the first time since 2006. It’s not just the volume level that impresses but also the consistency with which Mustang sales improve.
Year-over-year, Canada’s Ford Mustang volume has increased in six of 2017’s first seven months, rising 29 percent during the key summer months of May-July. Annually, 2017 is projected to be the Mustang’s fourth consecutive year of growth. After an 11-percent jump in 2014, a 24-percent rise in 2015, and a 10-percent uptick in 2016, Mustang sales are up 12 percent in 2017.
More than the outright volume and growth consistency, the factor that truly separates the Mustang from the pack is the vast margins of victory.
Combined, Dodge and Chevrolet sold 4,619 Challengers and Camaros in Canada during the first seven months of 2017. That’s 1,658 fewer muscle coupe sales than the Mustang managed on its own. Throw the Chevrolet Corvette into the mix and the Mustang still outsells the Challenger-Camaro-Corvette trio, as well.
What about other types of sporting cars? The Mazda MX-5 Miata and its Fiat 124 Spider twin produced 1,447 sales through 2017’s first seven months, less than one-quarter of the Mustang’s total. Japan’s top sporty cars — 370Z, WRX/STI, BRZ, 86 — combined for 4,570 total sales, roughly two-thirds the Mustang’s 6,277-unit total. Luxury cars? The Lexus RC, BMW 4 Series, Infiniti Q60, and surging Audi A5 generated 5,052 sales, well back of the Mustang. Hot hatchbacks? Volkswagen sold 1,500 GTIs between January and July.
The Ford Mustang is in another league. Indeed, you can forget the sports car competition. The Mustang is Canada’s 18th-best-selling car overall in 2017, ahead of mainstream competitors such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Versa and Altima, BMW 3 Series, Hyundai Sonata, and the Toyota Yaris.
Granted, the two-year-old sixth-gen Mustang hasn’t quite returned to the levels of that retro icon of 2005. Ford sold more than 10,000 Mustangs that year; more than 9,000 the year after. But if this rate of growth continues, made possible perhaps by the 2018 Mustang’s refresh, the 10K marker could soon fall, as well.