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Ford betting iconic Mustang will lure overseas buyers

The Ford motor company logo for their Mustang brand is shown above attendees at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California No
The Ford motor company logo for their Mustang brand is shown above attendees at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California No

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co is preparing to launch its Mustang coupe overseas for the first time, betting that the romance of the iconic American car will draw more consumers to its showrooms outside the United States.

The Mustang, which was redesigned for the 2015 model year, is a key vehicle that will both help Ford meet its mid-decade margin goals and attract new customers, Ford's president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, said at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday.

Ford will unveil its next-generation 2015 Mustang on December 5 with simultaneous events in Michigan, Shanghai, Sydney, Barcelona, New York and Los Angeles. The model is slated to go on sale next summer.

"They will want to see it for the first time being sold in those markets," he said in an interview. "That will have an influence not just on the Mustang itself but on the rest of the portfolio."

Ford is relying on high-margin vehicles like the Mustang to offset its rising investment in less-profitable small cars that are key to tapping emerging markets. The Mustang is also expected to draw more customers to the Ford brand, spurring sales.

The second-largest U.S. automaker is aiming for global margins of as much as 9 percent by mid-decade, up from 6.2 percent during the first nine months of 2013.

The new Mustang will boast a more modern design, nimbler handling and more efficient engines and transmissions, all intended to broaden the car's appeal beyond its American audience. Hinrichs declined to give details on where and when it will be sold first.

The company's research in Asia, Africa and Europe showed that the Mustang was among consumers' top five associations with the Ford brand in most markets even though the vehicle wasn't sold there, Hinrichs said.

The original Mustang was introduced at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, to national fanfare. It was featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine and was purchased by more than half a million customers in 1965, its first full year on the market.

The Mustang was the inspiration for the R&B song "Mustang Sally," which was popular in the mid-1960s, and has been featured many times in Hollywood movies. Steve McQueen, for instance, famously drove a dark green Mustang in the 1968 film "Bullitt."

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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