The Ford Mustang Seems to Be Competing With Itself for Sales

With all eyes on the 2018 model, sales of current cars have slowed drastically.

Ford

The 2018 Ford Mustang's mid-life facelift is shaping up to be a significant improvement over the current version. With the addition of Ford's 10-speed automatic transmission, a 0-60 time of under four seconds is possible if properly equipped and even a Quiet Mode—customers are eagerly awaiting the new model's arrival this fall. But unfortunately for Ford, that apparently means sales of the current model have dropped dramatically in anticipation of the new version.

Bloomberg reports that Mustang sales have dropped 30 percent this year through July. Sales were so low that in June that the Dodge Challenger actually outsold the Mustang for only the second time ever, mainly because of fewer Mustangs being sold rather than the slight increase of Challenger sales this year.

It's no surprise that most people tend to wait a little bit longer for the Next Big Thing to come out rather than buying the older model now just before it's replaced. But the current Mustang is no old man, having been introduced just two years ago. It's a highly competent car, Cars & Coffee notwithstanding, and can be taken seriously as a sports car rather than a one-trick pony in a straight line. But we live in a time of frequent upgrades. There's always a new iPhone or Android coming out. Tesla downloads upgrades to its cars frequently, updating or adding features without even requiring a trip to the dealer. Three years has become a long time to wait for such updates, despite a typical automotive platform remaining in production for anywhere from six to ten years, with a mid-life update in the middle. And unlike smartphone manufacturers, it's impossible to keep building earlier models to sell at a reduced price alongside the latest version.

Bloomberg speculates that as buyers expect more frequent updates of cars like the other consumer products they are used to, it will become more difficult for manufacturers to turn a profit from them. Sales would be amortized over a shorter length of time, while the cost of designing and producing a new model remains the same. That could mean that affordable performance cars such as the Mustang might not be as affordable anymore.