10 Million Mustangs

Yesterday, somewhere in the Detroit area, Mustang No. 10,000,000 rolled off the assembly lines at a Ford manufacturing plant.  In a vehicle world now dominated by oversized pickup trucks and high-end sport utility vehicles, the Mustang is one moderately sized passenger vehicle that has held its own, and Ford is making a big deal of the milestone.

51rkn5udqhl-_uy462_A lot of car models have come and gone since the Mustang was first introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.  As its perfectly chosen name suggests, the Mustang was a “pony car,” designed to be a smaller, more affordable sports car that would appeal to both men and women.  Indeed, women were a prominent target audience for Ford’s advertisements for the initial Mustangs.  And with its iconic grillwork and front end, adorned with the silver wild horse running free, the Mustang was an immediate hit.  Its popularity has endured.  Although sales of the car have lagged here in the U.S., its sales have been strong overseas, where car buyers no doubt associate the car with the classically American concept of the freedom of the open road.

In the more than 50 years since the Mustang was introduced, countless other cars have been introduced to great fanfare, only to end up in the dustbin of automotive history.  The Mustang is one of the few cars to achieve iconic status — but it, too, has changed over the years.  It seems like the designers at Ford just can’t resist fiddling with it.  Over the years, the Mustang has progressively gotten a lot bigger — the Mustang Mach I of the early ’70s, for example, was a true muscle car — then downsized; when I was in high school in the ’74-’75 ear, Ford introduced the Mustang II, which was much smaller and less powerful.  I drove a red Mustang II with a white vinyl roof, and it was a great car.  (At least, it was until my sister got her hands on it, but that’s another story.)

But through all of the design changes, and all of the changing tastes of the car-buying populace, the Mustang has retained its ultimate allure.  When you think about it, ten million vehicles is a lot of cars.  Mustang Sally would be proud.

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Car Names

Yesterday I was driving in downtown Columbus, in line behind one of those generic, ubiquitous, slow-moving SUVs. I looked at the colossal rear end of the vehicle and saw that it was called the Buick Enclave.

The Enclave? Now there’s a car name.

The Enclave is both evocative and designed to appeal to a very specific segment of the population. Evocative, because the enormous car actually looked like a big, boxy, rolling chunk of metal capable of sheltering a healthy segment of the population from the ravages of the outside world. Of limited and specific appeal, because no one who buys an Enclave is looking for anything sporty or daring. Nope, they want safety, and comfortable seats, and lots of cupholders where they can store the drinks they’re sipping in happy security as ugly, dangerous reality slides by outside their windows.

Car manufacturers do a pretty good job with names that define the vehicle itself, like the Mustang, or the Challenger, or the Nissan Cube. The Buick Enclave, I think, has to have a place in the Pantheon of great car names. But should it concern us that there apparently is a healthy market of American car buyers who are looking for a rolling enclave?