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Americana brings Mustangs to Taranaki

Taranaki’s public appreciation of the annual event’s celebration of American vehicles is legendary and was an influence on the first sales of the factory right-hand-drive Mustang in this region. Left-hook cars and a few newer right-hand-drive models made up many of the 800 or so cars shown off at Americarna 2020 last month.

mustang in yard 2

A new Mustang RTR fastback takes prime position at Energy City Ford, emphasising its status as the latest ‘hero’ car for the New Plymouth dealership. And it’s appropriate that the first purchase coincided with February’s Americarna excitement.

The Mustang has been a hero car since Ford launched its iconic first model in 1964 and there are more than a few of those original and later imported cars sitting in garages throughout Taranaki. But it was only in 2015 that Ford made the decision to build the model in right-hand-drive form - and that triggered a new-car buying spree in New Zealand. Energy City Ford was at the forefront of that spree - on a per capita basis, at least, recalls the firm’s Sales Manager Stu Dempster.

“We were taking orders for months before the first shipment arrived in December 2015. Nationally, it (the Mustang) was very successful. Most dealers were taking orders and a lot of people came out of the woodwork who wanted a New Zealand-new, right-hand-drive vehicle as their ‘toy’.”

Most of the buyers fit a similar demographic, he says. “Older, established, with a discretionary spend.” Ford had begun phasing out their Australian-built Falcons and Territorys at the time. “So it was nice to have something different to add to the fleet and nice to have something like the Mustang out of the States and the Endura out of Canada.”

When Ford New Zealand launched the right-hand-drive model, they opted for a function in Christchurch timed to complement the Mustang’s 50-years celebrations. “We went down for that. It was at an airfield and there was a Mustang for every year from 1964.”

What stood out in that line-up was the familiarity of the design through the years. “One good thing is that they haven’t changed the looks too much. If a Mustang drives past you, you know it’s a Mustang.”

Today’s Mustang celebrates the aggressive front end of the mid-60s model, and also its famous three-bar tail lights. That helps maintain the emotional appeal of the car, which explains why buyers were happy to order it and wait for its arrival.

“People were understanding, if they had to wait for months.”

For the first six months from December 2015, people were waiting for their Mustangs, Stu (above) says. “There was quite an order bank. For the first 12 months we had a steady delivery of Mustangs, but from 2017 onwards, most people who wanted them had them and interest slowed down from then. We sell just a handful a year now.”

The Mustang was well-priced for what the buyer received, Stu points out. And it got better. The original six-speed auto shifted up to a 10-speed, and the V8 engine’s kilowatt output increased. “That first round of orders, there were only one or two that were bought as their daily drive cars ... most were Sunday toys. Two or three dealers did well and we were up there with them with 20 to 25 presold ... on a population-based percentage, we were the top in the country! ”

Standard Mustangs were a rare order... people wanted them dressed up and powered up. “They mostly put a Stage 2 performance pack in them.” The popularity of that pack prompted a change in the New Zealand specification and Stu says it’s now standard on new Mustangs.