Fifty years of Mustang cool: is China along for the ride?

Fifty years of Mustang cool: is China along for the ride?
A model poses by a red Mustang 50th anniversary edition car on display at the China International Exhibition Center new venue during the "Auto China 2014" Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing on April 21, 2014.

BEIJING - From Steve McQueen to "The Fast and the Furious", the Mustang has long cruised through American pop culture, but Ford is hoping its snarling sports car will find a new generation of fans as it turns 50: in China.

Launched in 1964 at an event on top of the Empire State Building, the Mustang quickly became a byword for cool among America's youth, who loved the slick, highly customisable "pony car" that stood out next to their parents' bulky sedans.

Ford received 22,000 orders on its first day of sale in the United States, and exceeded 418,000 after one year, four times more than expected. Since then, more than 9.2 million have been sold.

When the latest Mustang was driven on stage by CEO Alan Mulally at the Beijing Auto Show on Sunday, its equine emblem - the galloping free spirit of the American West - struck a chord in the Year of the Horse.

Ford has already proved to be one of the biggest winners in the recent Chinese clamour for urban 4x4s, with sales of its locally-produced Kuga model soaring.

Now it wants to break into the equally crowded sports car segment.

'Crazy Freedom'

Shanghai-based analyst Namrita Chow believes name and logo recognition will make or break Mustang in China. "The Chinese market is very brand-conscious," she stressed.

"At the moment, Mustang has no presence in China, so Ford is coming from zero... this is a strategy to raise brand-awareness, to prove it has different models (to offer) to its competitors," she added.

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