Cars.co.za Journalist, Gero Lilleike, explores the hype surrounding the introduction of the Ford Mustang in South Africa. Is this premium-priced, low volume sportscar worthy of all the attention it's getting... or is it just a transient marketing ploy?
The Mustang nameplate has been around for 52 years and its absence from the South African motoring landscape over that period is nothing short of depressing, or is it? Depending how you feel about the Mustang, it’s either the best car to be launched in South Africa in recent times, or it’s just a hunk of American steel that rides on the coattails of its storied precursors from the Sixties.
Although the hype around the Mustang is palpable, what value does it hold for motorists in South Africa? Quite frankly, should we even care that it’s here? You see, the Mustang has gone on sale in South Africa and even though you can’t even buy one (because they’re all sold out for the next two years), it begs the question: is the Mustang generating genuine interest in South Africa or is it just another fad?
The power of time
Born in the 60’s, the Mustang is an integral part of American motoring culture... it spurred other manufacturers into building affordable V8-engined sportscars of their own in what became known as the "musclecar era". The Mustang was an instant hit, selling over 1 million units within two years of its introduction in 1964. Since then, more than 9 million Mustangs have been sold around the world.
In many ways, the Mustang symbolises the rebellious freedom and carefree attitude of a bygone era. Yet, even today, the Mustang evokes the same emotions in anyone who has the pleasure of laying their eyes on one, and therein lies the Ford's lasting allure.
The Mustang’s indelible iconic musclecar status was further popularised when Hollywood jumped on the musclecar bandwagon. The original ‘64 1/2 Mustang made its first appearance in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger while the 1968 film Bullit, featuring Steve McQueen in his Mustang GT Fastback remains a classic reminder of the spirit of the Mustang, and that particular car also bears a striking resemblance to the sixth-generation Mustang that stands before me today.
Those are just two examples, but there are thousands upon thousands of references to the Mustang in popular culture, Gone in 60 Seconds, Mustang Sally and even Vanilla Ice enjoyed Rollin’ in his 5.0. More recently, who could forget Ken Block tearing up the streets of Los Angeles in his heavily modified 630 kW all-wheel drive Mustang in Gymkhana 7? The list goes on forever and the impressions are timeless. Few cars in history can claim such widespread and entrenched popularity across the globe as the Mustang does.
It goes without saying then, that when Ford announced that the Mustang would, for the first time, be produced for right-hand drive markets and become available in South Africa, people went absolutely bonkers. The local launch of the Mustang in Cape Town became a hipster parade with Mustang selfies ruling the Twittersphere. Local demand for the Mustang is surging and Ford’s order book is bursting.
According to local Ford Mustang brand manager, Kuda Takura, demand for the Mustang in South Africa will remain strong over the next two years. “We have sold 84 units of our 960 allocation for the year. All 960 units are spoken for and are literally sold as they arrive. Based on orders still in the system, we are presently sold out through 2017 too” says Takura. And, Mustang allocation for 2017 is unlikely to increase.
South Africa is not the only right-hand drive market where the 2015 Mustang has been well received. Markets in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, among others, are reporting strong demand for the Mustang. The Mustang is also making waves in the Chinese market where it’s one of the best-selling cars. In Germany, the Mustang was the best-selling sportscar in March 2016, outselling major models from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, a phenomenal achievement for the Mustang. Latest reports indicate that the Mustang was the world’s best-selling sports coupe in 2015, racking up over 140 000 sales.
Apart from car clubs such as the Mustang Club of South Africa, car museums and imported examples owned by collectors and Mustang enthusiasts, the Mustang is rarely seen on South African roads. In America, however, Mustangs run wild. Even though that’s true, the influence of American culture on South Africa is undeniably clear for all to see. We adore Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. We laugh at Donald Trump and George W. Bush, but adore the Mustang.
American culture is entwined in our daily lives and many South Africans' identities have been influenced by it. It’s through mass media and the Internet that the image of the Mustang has remained alive in South Africa. For decades, South African car enthusiasts have ogled longingly at their TV and computer screens at images and footage of the Mustang and the car felt so intangible... so far away from home.
Instead, petrolheads living in South Africa in the late 70's and 80's will fondly remember cars such as the Ford Capri Perana, Cortina XR6, Sierra XR8 and the Escort XR3. The cars were icons in their day; it was through these locally developed cars that a passion for the Blue Oval remained alive in the hearts and minds of South African petrolheads.
In the absence of the Mustang, these models, in many ways, embodied the same spirit and one could argue the arrival of the Mustang has created something of a nostalgic resurgence. The Mustang has been – and still is – unobtainable for many and an object of envy. South Africans lust after the Mustang, because we haven't yet enjoyed the promise of freedom it embodies. It's an alien from another world, the power of time has made it so.
The Mustang effect
Perhaps the reason why South Africans have latched onto the Mustang with such fervour is because there hasn’t been that many cars that could capture the public's imagination to the same extent as the 'Stang. Today, there are but a handful of cars that are regarded as icons in this wonderful land, the BMW M3, Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Toyota Hilux immediately come to mind, but not much else. We are deprived in that sense and the Mustang seems to somehow fill the void and console our fragile egos. Iconic cars have the power to make us feel special and the Mustang has that effect.
It will take many years for the Mustang to become a common sight on our roads and even longer for us to come to terms with its endearing presence. The Mustang hype will continue to drive demand and even though the latest Mustang is far from perfect, there’s nothing quite like it on sale in South Africa and as long as people stare, the Mustang will be long-loved in South Africa.
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