12/05/2013 11:30 am ET | Updated Feb 04, 2014

Ford Hopes New Mustang Gallops

Ford Motor company took the wraps off the all-new 2015 Mustang, the fifth version of the iconic muscle car to emerge from the Dearborn, Mich. studios since it debuted at the 1964 World's Fair.

The new Mustang, which will hit U.S. dealerships in the fall, and overseas markets in 2015, is meant to appeal to not only lovers of this classic iconic Detroit ride, but European and Asian buyers as well. That's why the company unveiled the car simultaneously in Dearborn, New York City, Barcelona, Shanghai, China and Sydney, Australia.

Ford COO Mark Fields, widely expected to be named CEO by the end of 2014, led the hometown debut, while CEO Alan Mullaly went to the New York media capital and chairman Bill Ford manned the Barcelona event.

"Mustang is the soul of the brand, not just in America, but around the world," said Fields. Indeed, there are more than 300 Mustang owner and enthusiast clubs on five continents, with many of those abroad owners by virtue of having their cars shipped to them. The public doesn't have that kind of car worship for the Ford Focus or Edge.

How much brand love is there for Mustang despite being on track to sell fewer than 80,000 this year? There are more than five million Facebook followers for Mustang. That's what comes from 50 uninterrupted years of selling more than nine million copies of the same marque. It also has more than 3,000 film, TV and video game credits, helping to account for the fact that it is virtually the only domestic car one sees parked in driveways in the Hollywood Hills.

"Mustang, especially this new one, is incredibly important to our strategy for growing market share in California and the Southeast," said Fields, noting Ford has bumped up its total market share this year by a half-percentage point.

The New Pony

Looking at the new Mustang, one can almost see the design clinging to aspects of the original, before, perhaps, it breaks out into a true 21st century design the next time the pony is redone.

Notable are the large air vents in the hood, mimicking, as Car and Driver pointed out, "the flared mustang nostrils that hint at the power beneath." Headlamps are now in the Ford family with Fusion, Fiesta, etc., but the grille is uniquely Mustang, as is the entire engineering platform.

The new Mustang does not look "retro" in any sort of bad way. The evolutionary design, which has softened the cars lines a bit, and smoothed over the B-pillar cowl of the car, seems a move specifically to appeal to new buyers in Europe without ditching the Mustang purists. Ford's global design chief J Mays, who is retiring at the end of this year, says several sketches and clay models were created before the end product was decided upon. "The Mustang silhouette is a bloodline that had to be evident and unmistakable from a distance," Mays said.

The interior of the car carries over the circular air vents and round tubular gauges in front of the driver. The original 1964 Mustang took these cues from the rockets and new planes of the early 1960s, and Ford has carried them forward in modernized designs the last few generations of the cars. The newest iteration of MyFord Touch, which has killed the Ford brand in quality rankings by J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports, has redundant controls for those who do not like all the haptic-touch, touchscreen virtual switchgear. Remember: baby boomers are retiring in droves and are part of the market for this car, and the older a buyer is the less interested they tend to be in mucking around with telematics gadgetry that is anything but intuitive. Said Mays, "The Mustang is more of an analog car than a digital car, and that's what it wants to be."

Fuel economy on all engine configurations should climb because of the lighter weight of the new Mustang. The first ponies to arrive will have 3.7 liter V-6 and 5.0 liter V-8. Buyers will choose between a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. Within a couple of years, the Mustang will get freshened with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Expect the 5.0 V-8 to get a horsepower boost from 420 at the outset to an even 500. We are also anticipating a turbo-charged four-cylinder engine option to satisfy both U.S. and European customers more conscious of fuel economy. A diesel for Europe? We'll see.

Of course, there will be performance ponies. A Shelby GT500, as well as a Trinity Supercharged 5.8 liter V-8 cranking out 662 horsepower, according to Car and Driver.

See the deep dive on the car's design and engineering details and photo gallery at Autoblog.

The Buyers

When Ford introduced the car in 1964, it was cheered as a "car for young America." After all, the leading edge of the baby boom was just turning 18. Remembering that back in those days there were no Asian brands for Ford to compete against, Ford sold more than 400,000 Mustangs a year for several years and topped 600,000 a year out of about 11 million total cars sold. The top selling Toyota Camry today doesn't sell that many cars.

The car made the career of Ford President Lee Iacocca. Without the raging success financially and culturally of the Mustang behind the executive icon, it is likely that Iacocca would not have had the reputation and force of will to take over Chrysler and save that company in the 1980s. It also helped redeem Ford's reputation in product development after the fiasco of the Ford Edsel in 1958, '59 and '60.

Gail Wise was part of the young generation Ford was after in 1964. A 22-year-old new college graduate in Illinois about to start a job as a teacher, she is the first person to buy a Mustang that year just months after President Kennedy's assassination, a powder-blue convertible, two days before it officially went on sale. She was on hand at the Dearborn unveiling. "Driving it home, I felt like a movie star," said Wise.

In terms of pure sales, Mustang sold 71,459 cars through November, so will be shy of 80,000 for the year, and lag the Chevy Camaro among muscle car sales.

While Mustang has the distinction of being the only car in its class to be produced every year since its inception, it is not without stiff competition. Not only is the current Camaro outselling it and widely lauded, but Chrysler sells a Dodge Challenger, Hyundai competes with its Genesis coupe and Toyota has a much praised Toyota GT 86/Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ.

But Mustang is the standard that all those companies are shooting at when they launch their cars.