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Write What You Drive

A showcase of independent motoring journalism and automotive travails

Mustang to UK: The Long Hello

It's unlikely to be news to anybody that the Ford Mustang is coming to the UK for (sort of) the first time; in right hand drive, with a 5.0L V8 and a 4 cylinder turbo. JTurn doesn't tend to deal in breaking news stories and this trend has certainly been upheld where the 2015 Mustang is concerned.

What could be considered news, if not particularly relevant or interesting news, is that I want one; really quite badly. As watermarks in car movies go, Bullett is up there and anything that can make even Steve Mcqueen look cooler is sure to do wonders for any mere mortals right? I'm a bit of a closet American V8 fan; as will become apparent in a work-in-progress article on American car culture.

On any visits to the USA, I've always imagined that if I lived there I would finance one of the selection of readily available plastic muscle cars up to the eyeballs and pretend I'm a small-time getaway driver on my journey to work every morning. The Mustang's UK debut is my chance to put my money where my mouth is.

I could wax on about what good value the V8 GT model represents at £33k, how the deep steering wheel and toggle switches hark faithfully back to Mustangs of old and speculate as to why anybody wouldn't spend the extra £4k and buy the V8 over the 4 cylinder. Never having driven, sat in or even seen a 2015 model however, I will leave this to the professional journalists who get invited to press launches and such.

The real purpose of this article is to exercise my itchy fingers and occupy a mind yearning for the opportunity to own one; a mind that has been sitting in torment for the last 2 and a half years. It's perhaps the fact that this car has captured my interest far more than anything else launched recently that has highlighted the fact, but Ford have really teased every last inch out of us with this one and I'm not sure it has really been of benefit.

The announcement that the Mustang is coming to the UK as part of the company's "One Ford" plan to develop models for a global market rather than Europe and North America in isolation, was made way back at the end of 2012. At this point I would imagine the project was little more than a line on a spreadsheet and a few high level buzzwords like "iconic", "agile" and "liberty".

It was December 2013 before some woolly promises about European dynamics and build quality surfaced, along with rough engine specifications (including the announcement of the much vaunted 4 cylinder EcoBoost turbo). There was also a flashy but vacuous official web page featuring the naff tagline "Open it up, and then open it up!" and containing a few colour choices and interior shots.

I attempted to sign up for a "Keep me informed" mailing list at this point, only to find that on leaving the polished confines of the new Mustang page, the standard Ford website didn't even have it listed as one of the models you could register interest in. A massive oversight as Ford was presumably using the website and campaign as a method of gauging interest and obtaining potential customers' details.

This was all I and at least 1,200 other UK customers had to chew on for over a year before the European prices and specifications were finally confirmed in January. This also signalled the launch of the UK Car Configurator on the Ford website dealing out gratification and further frustration in equal measure.

The problem was (and indeed is) that despite a smattering of galloping pony emblems and promises of "Iconic status as standard", in the real world what matters to customers is when we can actually have a go in one, what finance packages are available (boring but highly relevant) and when we can expect delivery. All of which are still missing at the time of writing.

Ford, as a global concern with its own finance subsidiary, must surely have a rough idea of what the finance packages are likely to be. At the moment I still don't know if Mustang ownership (more specifically, V8 Mustang ownership) is an attainable dream given my current means or pony-pie-in-the-sky. And the suspense is killing me.

A huge minimum finance payment of £600/month would at least give me an answer and let me get on with the rest of my life; perhaps pursuing the arguably more prudent strategy of buying an older V8 outright rather than effectively renting a brand new one for 3 years.

The motoring media has joined in with this teasing by publishing half-baked reviews from the US launch back in September, almost all proclaiming that the Mustang was good in parts but lacked the refinement of a European coupe (a V8 for £33k, I probably could have guessed as much). Any conclusions given the caveat that they were driving US spec cars and that judgement must be reserved for when they are driven on the mythical "UK roads" - I'm not sure which roads these are exactly and why they are so different to anything available anywhere else in the world but they certainly seemed to have it in for the Alfa Romeo 4C when it finally drove on them.

Most recently, the European launch has taken place in Germany; hence a rash of updated semi-reviews and my desires reaching fever-pitch. The reviews have said largely what I expected and wanted to hear; the V8 makes a great noise, the dynamics are solid if unspectacular and the whole package will make you smile in a welcome break from warmed over VAG hatches and dour German salooupes.

Again, any conclusions came with the footnote that the cars were only being driven on European roads and in Euro Spec...still no word on those elusive UK roads.

It's unfair however, to blame the media too much - they must share in my frustration at the drip-feeding of information and vehicle time in an attempt to prolong and maximise every last bit of exposure for new vehicles. Meanwhile it's up to the journalists to fill column inches and attempt to craft a fully rounded story out of a fraction of the information required at the time.

Ford on the other hand, would probably argue that the campaign has been a success based on the number of orders they have already secured in Europe, and particularly the UK. I may well have been amongst that number if I had been given more of an idea what I was signing up for. How much is it going to cost me a month and, more importantly, do I like how it drives? If I'm going to end my MR2 love affair, I feel the least I should do is test drive its prospective replacement (a point at which many vehicles before have failed to unseat my old JDM friend) but I still wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to when one of the chosen few Mustang dealerships will have a V8 GT for me to test drive.

These are 1,200 brave people, braver than I; to sign on the line for a vehicle they have probably never even seen, let alone driven, and with no indication of the financial commitments. The knock on effect is that there is now apparently a 1 year waiting list on RHD Mustangs - meaning that even if I ordered one today, it would be knocking on half a decade since I read the original announcement and thought "I might fancy a bit of that" to when I actually have one on my driveway. In the meantime, the buzz around the new-ness of the car erodes along with, potentially, my interest.

How many more customers could Ford have secured with a more focused launch campaign? I guess since their order books are full for the next year, they either vastly underestimated the popularity of the Mustang in RHD markets; or aren't bothered anyway. But what of the interests of their customers and the feelings of being strung along?

It is my belief that any car launch can only really sustain two zeniths - one roughly around the motorshow unveiling and specification announcement (traditionally the time when customers start voicing their interest) and one at the press launch when journalists' verdicts are delivered. To ride this crest, it should be followed swiftly by availability in showrooms and the first customer deliveries. This would be my ideal; rather than the five or six false starts that the Mustang has stimulated already.

Ford did the hard work - the part of automotive development that is difficult to quantify but vital to success - designing a car I would chew my right arm off to own; but then failed at the easy bit. The boring bits like keeping me updated, how much it will cost in real terms and, most importantly, availability when I want it...which is now!

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