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Muscle Cars Make a Comeback

In Effort to Lure Back Buyers, Detroit Turns to Retro Models Of Mustangs, GTOs, Chargers
By NEAL E. BOUDETTE
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
June 16, 2005​

The American auto industry is trying to muscle its way out of the doldrums.

Three decades after the heyday of muscle cars -- raw, powerful vehicles such as the Ford Mustang and Pontiac GTO that helped define freedom-of-the-road independence for a generation -- some newly redesigned versions are emerging as strong sellers. Ford Motor Co. is selling about 18,000 Mustangs a month, as many as its factory can produce, and says demand is greater than expected.

In coming weeks it will face a new challenger, the Dodge Charger, from DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, which is hitting showrooms this month and is a remake of a vehicle that last rolled off assembly lines more than 25 years ago. The Mustang and GTO have both been on the market since last year.


Price now: $29,995; Price in 1966: Base of $3,122;
the bigger engine added about $1,000. Coming out this month,
it has a sneering 'face' -- and a spacious rear seat.


The stakes are high for Detroit's Big Three auto makers, which are having trouble finding new designs that connect with buyers. At Ford, the Mustang is one of its few big hits among several new passenger cars that were supposed the help the company regain market share.

Despite a few successes like the Mustang and the top-selling new Chrysler 300 sedan, Detroit's auto makers have mostly had trouble getting buyers interested in their new designs. Ford already has started reworking the look of its Ford Five Hundred, a rival to the Chrysler 300, less than a year after its launch in hopes of boosting sales. GM's Buick division has piled up a big inventory of LaCrosse sedans, an all-new model that was supposed to turn around the brand's dowdy image.

In the first five months of this year, Ford's market share has fallen one percentage point to 19.1%. GM's is down to 25.7% from 27.2%

Even with the Mustang's strong sales, Ford's market share has continued to slip, although profit from the car is one of the factors putting Ford in slightly better financial condition than General Motors Corp. In the first quarter GM had a loss of $1.1 billion.


Price now: $25,815; Price in 1970: Base sticker price $2,721.
The biggest seller among muscle cars and particularly popular
among buyers for its retro look.

To meet current demand, Ford considered investing in additional capacity to build more Mustangs than the current maximum output of 192,000 a year. Executives decided against it to avoid getting stuck with too much capacity should demand slack off after a year or two, says Stephen G. Lyons, Ford North America group vice president for market, sales and service.

Part of the Mustang's appeal to buyers is its aggressive, retro look. As part of the redesign for the 2005 model year, Ford reverted to styling that hews closely to the look of the Mustangs of the mid-1960s. The most noticeable change is the car's front end, which features a large grille slanted backward toward the engine, giving it sort of a "shark nose" profile.

Despite the redesign, don't expect the kind of refined interior found in a BMW or Audi. There is plenty of hard plastic, and the rear seat is small: During a recent test drive, a three-year-old complained about a lack of leg room. Entry-level Mustangs go for $19,890, but the most powerful GT version starts at $25,815.

The remake of the GTO, which also started appearing in showrooms with the 2005 model year, followed a different strategy. Instead of evoking the car's 1970s heyday, it adopted a more modern, rounded look, which hasn't been a hit with buyers.

As a result, GM is on track to sell only about 13,000 this year: this year, they are averaging only about 1,000 a month. Evan Sobran, a 43-year-old real-estate executive in Duxbury, Mass., who has test-driven the car, says it drives well but doesn't turn heads like the Mustang and Charger. "It's $34,000 and looks like a Saturn, or some rounded bar of soap," he says.


Price now: $34,295; Price in 1964: $3,081 for the convertible.
Has V-8 with 400 horsepower, most of the three muscle cars,
but its power is overshadowed by dull design.


That is bad news for GM, which was hoping the GTO would help generate excitement for its other new passenger cars, particularly the Pontiac G6, a all-new replacement for Pontiac's aging Grand Am. The company was counting on a comeback in passenger cars to offset declines in sales of sport-utility vehicles, one of its biggest sources of profit.

Chrysler is launching the Charger while the company is on a roll, thanks to the success of the 300 sedan, which shares its underpinnings, as well as its powerful eight-cylinder engine, with the Charger. If the Charger turns into a hit along the lines of the 300, Chrysler could be on its way to its most profitable year in some time. A sedan with a big, bold front grille, the 300 is among the hottest cars right now. Chrysler sells about 12,000 a month.

The new Charger won't be an updated copy of the original, which is perhaps most widely known for its iconic role in "The Dukes of Hazzard" television show.

In a nod to the baby-boomer sensibilities of its current target market, the new Charger is a four-door -- the original had only two. The car does retain its scowling, angled headlights as well as other styling cues to remind consumers of its heritage.

Catering to consumers' concerns about fuel efficiency in an era of $2-a-gallon gas, the Charger also has a system that shuts off four of the engine's eight cylinders while cruising on the highway or sitting in traffic. In one day of heavy stop-and-go driving, the Charger managed 19 miles a gallon, which is roughly two or three miles a gallon better than the Mustang in similar driving. On the highway, the Charger got almost 24.

 

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05GTO said:
As a result, GM is on track to sell only about 13,000 this year: this year, they are averaging only about 1,000 a month. Evan Sobran, a 43-year-old real-estate executive in Duxbury, Mass., who has test-driven the car, says it drives well but doesn't turn heads like the Mustang and Charger. "It's $34,000 and looks like a Saturn, or some rounded bar of soap," he says.
First of all, they're not producing 192,000 cars, they'll sell every one produced, which is the idea in the first place.

And second... now it looks like a Saturn? I thought looking like a Cavalier was bad enough.
 

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Gotta love it. Instead of complimenting the beautiful and comfortable interior, the incredible performance, etc. all they can do is bash the looks. That article makes it seem the car has nothing.

That's ok, because when I cruise effortlessly (and comfortably) passed the wave of crapstangs (mostly V6's which is histerical), I just sit back, relax and watch them in the mirror :lol:
 

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It still bothers me when the GTO is referred to as a "muscle car." That denotes straight-line tire destroyers, not a powerful GT car...

Oh well. GM brought it on themselves when they called it a "Pontiac GTO"...
 

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A Saturn, A bar of soap what's next a Yugo. Are these people high on crack when they write this stuff? Has any of these people really experienced the new GTO? This is one of the hotest car around right now, and I'm not just saying that because I own one. Gee maybe I need to trade it in on a new fugly Charger.......NOT.
 

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While GM wanted to sell a lot of GTO's , I am glad that they will retain the WOW factor for years to come. Unlike the Mustang which I see 20 a day of here in L.A., a fellow GTO Owner is still something that is rare and exciting.

I agree with one of the posts above that the interior of the GTO is the best of these cars in the article and the fact that it doesnt even get a mention in the article is BS.
 

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Gee, maybe I should get a Charger with "almost 24" on the highway because of the engine management shutting down cylinders????? Is this better than mine running on all 8 all the time, routinely pulling 26 on the highway? Granted, I can't be too friendly with the go pedal to get this, but setting the cruise at 72 for most of the tank gives me the 26mpg all the time (went from upstate NY to Maryland for the car show and got 26mpg on the trip down).

I agree that no mention of the interior of the GTO in the article is BS. It does have quite plain styling (not really a negative in my opinion) but the rest is very nice!
 

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GTO676 said:
A Saturn, A bar of soap what's next a Yugo. Are these people high on crack when they write this stuff? Has any of these people really experienced the new GTO? This is one of the hotest car around right now, and I'm not just saying that because I own one. Gee maybe I need to trade it in on a new fugly Charger.......NOT.
You gotta understand most people aren't car people. If they are looking at these types of cars it's because they have a little too much money. Thier main car is probably a truck because that's what's "in". They are more concerned about how they look getting somewhere than who they can blow away and impress on their way.

That's why there are so many convertibles, automatics, and *shudder* v-6's. Heck there are a lot of people on here that have automatics and I imagine if there was a convertible available people would have those too. Now I'll admit automatics are beggining to be comparable to sticks, all the high power mercedes come in some variant of auto and rarely pure stick, but still I can't imagine not truely driving the car yourself and claiming to be into roasting others with "your" performance.

Anyways that is straying from the point, which is most people just don't have our distinctive taste for performance. They are posers.
 

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They killed me when they said that they did not get many head turns with the GTO. I have to say that when I drive my GTO around the town, I always get compliments on the incredible power, that is when fools try to race me, the style, and the looks of the car. Performance has always been a factor in my book, but those guys really need to take a ride in a GTO before they make pathetic comments like that. I would never buy a Mustang or one of the new Chargers. I think both of those cars have terrible styling.
 

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Groucho said:
It still bothers me when the GTO is referred to as a "muscle car." That denotes straight-line tire destroyers, not a powerful GT car...

Oh well. GM brought it on themselves when they called it a "Pontiac GTO"...

:agree The biggest marketing mistake of all. Under a different name, sales would likely have been much higher.
 

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kannona said:
They killed me when they said that they did not get many head turns with the GTO. I have to say that when I drive my GTO around the town, I always get compliments on the incredible power, that is when fools try to race me, the style, and the looks of the car. Performance has always been a factor in my book, but those guys really need to take a ride in a GTO before they make pathetic comments like that. I would never buy a Mustang or one of the new Chargers. I think both of those cars have terrible styling.
My wife is looking for a new vehicle and we were at a Chrysler dealership today and as we passed the 300c's (which she hates btw *sigh*) a salesman driving a car from the prep area to their used lot pulled up next to us and me thinking he was telling me I couldn't go farther rolled down my window to tell him I was turning around in time for him to say, "VERY nice car! Trading it in?" lol! Yeah, the GTO has no styling. :rolleyes:
 

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GaryBro said:
Gee, maybe I should get a Charger with "almost 24" on the highway because of the engine management shutting down cylinders????? Is this better than mine running on all 8 all the time, routinely pulling 26 on the highway? Granted, I can't be too friendly with the go pedal to get this, but setting the cruise at 72 for most of the tank gives me the 26mpg all the time (went from upstate NY to Maryland for the car show and got 26mpg on the trip down).

I agree that no mention of the interior of the GTO in the article is BS. It does have quite plain styling (not really a negative in my opinion) but the rest is very nice!
Isnt that a RIOT?!! Better fuel economy in a "full time" 6 litre, where they have to shut down half the engine to even come close. Does anyone remember Cadillac's 4-6-8 4100 engine? Wasnt that thing unreliable due to its complicated cylinder shut down features? Isnt that why they scrapped it? I wonder if these new designs are going to be as reliable as the LS2. As for the article, how do you go into how crappy the interior is on one car and skip over the interior (and how cadillac-like it is) on the other. I am telling you, every single magazine article I have EVER read on the GTO was negative, or had an overall negative overtone. The ONLY positive report on this car was the 1/2 hour speed channel comparo last week. Its sick and it smacks of some kind of vendetta against GM or the Pontiac division. In the real world where we all live I get stopped in parking lots, at red lights, gas stations, EVERYWHERE with people coming to me telling me how beautiful they think my car is. I get a **** eating grin on my face every time it happens and my wife thinks I am a dork. Are these rag editors the kind of people that Dodge is trying to cater to with these new designs. I think so. Well let these guys buy those cars, I will keep my GTO.
 

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There's no accounting for taste, as they say. People are such sheep - minivans are in, there are millions being sold, then SUVs are in, there are millions being sold, nobody wants to be seen dead in a minivan, new Chrysler looks like a tank, invasions are in, they sell a boat load, (H2 anyone?). It's safety in numbers - nobody will criticize your purchase of a Mustang - look how popular they are! My own tendency is to buck the trend and buy what I like - GTO in this case.

Think that's why I keep getting stuck with cars I can't get rid of? Doh! Anyone want to buy a '96 SHO?
 

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Article said:
As a result, GM is on track to sell only about 13,000 this year: this year, they are averaging only about 1,000 a month. Evan Sobran, a 43-year-old real-estate executive in Duxbury, Mass., who has test-driven the car, says it drives well but doesn't turn heads like the Mustang and Charger. "It's $34,000 and looks like a Saturn, or some rounded bar of soap," he says.
Obviously, NEAL E. BOUDETTE interviewed a real "car enthusiast" when he interview that bozo from Duxbury, MA.

Unfortunately, he's protected by the First Amendment.
Quote from FirstAmendmentCenter.com
"In the United States, the government may not prevent the publication of a newspaper, even when there is reason to believe that it is about to reveal information that will endanger our national security. "

Too bad we couldn't make an exception in this case.!
 

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JMVorbeck said:
Isnt that a RIOT?!! Better fuel economy in a "full time" 6 litre, where they have to shut down half the engine to even come close. Does anyone remember Cadillac's 4-6-8 4100 engine? Wasnt that thing unreliable due to its complicated cylinder shut down features? Isnt that why they scrapped it? I wonder if these new designs are going to be as reliable as the LS2. As for the article, how do you go into how crappy the interior is on one car and skip over the interior (and how cadillac-like it is) on the other. I am telling you, every single magazine article I have EVER read on the GTO was negative, or had an overall negative overtone. The ONLY positive report on this car was the 1/2 hour speed channel comparo last week. Its sick and it smacks of some kind of vendetta against GM or the Pontiac division. In the real world where we all live I get stopped in parking lots, at red lights, gas stations, EVERYWHERE with people coming to me telling me how beautiful they think my car is. I get a **** eating grin on my face every time it happens and my wife thinks I am a dork. Are these rag editors the kind of people that Dodge is trying to cater to with these new designs. I think so. Well let these guys buy those cars, I will keep my GTO.
FYI, One significant change from the LS1 to the LS2 is a change in the internals to support a cylinder cut out system (in future models of the engine, I guess). I wonder what a GTO, already getting 25-26 mpg, would get with this system. I do know this new system (like the hemi one) is a lot more sophisticated that the old Cadi system, supposedly with out the problems it had.
 

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Average consumer is brain dead,if not the roads would not be clogged full of 6000lb behemoths passing themselves off as "Sport" utility vehicles...
They have sold over 5 MILLION Exploders,,Come on,,how many oversized,overpriced battlewagons do we need? And that doesnt include the other bazillion suv models on the road today.With this kind of "mine has to be bigger than yours" buying mentality its amazing any sports cars sell at all.
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QUOTE:Ford Explorer - The Explorer is Ford’s midsize SUV which debuted in 1990 as a 1991 model, with total production reaching five million in 2002. The Explorer was the best-selling SUV for the twelfth time in 2002, with sales of more than 400,000 for the fifth consecutive year. For 2001 the Explorer Sport Trac was added with a pickup-bed in place of the traditional SUV cargo area
_______________________________________________________________

I also think the car would have sold way better under its real name than as a GTO.. Too many backward thinking reporters/writers/testers that automatically dismiss the car because it doesnt look like it was designed 30 years ago.. If I want an old car Ill buy an old one..

Doesnt bother me though,,if they had done it right I probably couldnt afford one..
:cool
 
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