The Ford Mustang Pony Car - A Legacy From Auto Marketing Research Of An Econobox
by Terry Z. Voster
The Ford Mustang was one of the most pivotal cars in the American Sports and Pony Car sales and marketing as well as being an icon of the "Youth Generation". Sports, fast and very important inexpensive and affordable how did it come about?
It can be said that by the time that Robert F. McNamara came to leave the Ford Motor Company in the year of 1960 he had ensured that not only was it in good financial state but just as importantly he had laid the tools and resources from which the Mustang was to emerge. Mr. McNamara was the one of the pillars who introduced and developed the concepts of statistical analysis in the day to day working and planning of American enterprises. This came directly from his academic background, was applied to the American effort in the Second World War and later directly to American business. The famous "Whiz Kids" who had such a major effect on the American business climate and efforts were directly his progeny.
1965 Mustang Front Fender
Mr. McNamara joined the Ford Motor Company as president. The story is told that this was at the urging of his friend that instead of a return to academia and Harvard University that "they should join and work for an American company that was in "Big Trouble". Apparently on the front cover of the then dominant respected magazine of the time "Life Magazine" was the cover and lead story of the woes of the family run Ford Motor Company.
One of the first things Mr. McNamara did as head of Ford was to inquire about the "statistical and research department", find that one did not exist, and then work directly towards the creation of that very department in a major and substantive way.
At that point in time Americans drove big cars that were of American origin only.
General Motors was the dominant and profitable major market force. Ford was in tough times both in sales, profit and market penetration. When McNamara asked "research" about those "little German cars"(meaning the Volkswagen Beetle), he was told that this was an "economy car" with little sales in their American market. The term "economy car" as well implied low cost and low profit to the auto maker. In essence why bother. McNamara's answer to "research" was "found out about it anyway".
What transpired was the astonished report back to the chief from the research department staff that "We thought that this was an economy car. But all kinds of people and people with money - doctors, lawyers and engineers are buying this car. It's not only an economy car".
As a result Ford recognized and served a very profitable market niche. Instead of directly competing and fighting with an entrenched market leader, which often entails costs both in a great amount of marketing costs and reduced purchase prices (and profits) in order to sway buyers over from the other products, Ford entered this mid sized car market with its products the "Ford Falcon" and its upscale sister the "Mercury Comet" and in the Canadian marketed as the "Frontenac". Interestingly enough if you chance on a vintage Ford Falcon or Comet, in 2008, what was then perceived as a "small car" now seems as a very reasonably sized car now.
What is important about all of this is the Ford Falcon directly laid the groundwork for the Mustang and its success. The work and costs had mainly been done for the Mustang. The Mustang had a ready made platform upon which to base. Even the dash of the Mustang and the Falcon are identical, the basis of the Mustang had already been developed, paid for and tested for durability. Since a lot of the costs had been developed and paid for the Mustang could not only be brought out to market rapidly, it was at the time a very reasonably priced car. Of course the Mustang had a much larger engine and more pep for the kids and the beach. It was not a more stodgy family car but rather the first developing entry as an affordable youth Pony Car. The sales and lore of the Ford Mustang was so great that it is said that one donut shop owner put a sign in his window that "Our donuts are selling as fast as Mustangs".
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