By on September 13, 2010

Over the long haul of the Pony Car Wars, Ford’s Mustang has set the standard to which all others aspire. Having handily outsold the old F-Body Camaros (to say nothing of the nearest import-equivalent, the Nissan Z), Ford reigned alone over the declining muscle-coupe segment for much of the last decade. But the Pony Car cannot thrive alone, and the Mustang couldn’t keep its sales from sliding ever further… it needed some competition. Now, rather than fighting for pieces of a shrinking segment, the Camaro, Challenger and Mustang have been able to grow their sales together, revitalized by the renewed Pony Car Wars. Though our simple volume projection shows the Camaro on track to take the Pony Car crown from the Mustang, the short-term trends indicate a close battle to the finish this year. Hit the jump for summer sales comparisons…

Comparing the last three months of sales, it’s clear that the Mustang is fighting back. Still, if you break down those three months chronologically, another micro-trend emerges: Mustang won big in June, practically tied in July and slipped behind in August. How the Mustang-Camaro battle will play out through the end of this year is literally anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, the big picture is equally uncertain. The fact that the closest import competitors to the Pony Cars, the 370Z and RX-8, have received no bump from the segment’s revival is troubling. The indication then, is that the rebirth of the muscle coupe enthusiasm is based on a short-term, retro-nostalgia trend rather than a real shift towards coupes and performance cars. For now though, the Camaro and Mustang are locked in the kind of mano-a-mano horserace that this industry goes crazy for, and in the process they’ve revitalized a dead-on-its-feet segment. Even if it doesn’t last forever, this will be one Pony Car War to remember.

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48 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: Pony Car Wars Edition...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    “closest import competitors to the Pony cars”

    What about the Hyundai Genesis coupe?

  • avatar

    “The indication then, is that the rebirth of the muscle coupe enthusiasm is based on a short-term, retro-nostalgia trend rather than a real shift towards coupes and performance cars. ”
    Or it could be a built in market bias against the imports. I’d have any of the three pony cars (with some requirements: eight pots, six gears and three pedals) but have zero interest in the Z or RX-8.

  • avatar
    redliner

    My vote is for the underdog. I like the Challenger. It just feels honest. Its a big car, with a big engine and its ok with that, its not trying to be an M3.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    No one likes the new Z, eh?  I’m rather surprised, I have seen plenty of them around here.

    Genesis Coupe and G37 both deserve mention in this segment, maybe more than the Z… affordable coupes, after all.  And the 1-series, if they are selling any at all of the little sneaker.

    • 0 avatar
      tbp0701

      The Z and Nissan in general are kind of odd.  I’ve considered them, but one was driving alongside me on the freeway (which is always annoying) and the road noise really is extreme.  Also, from what I’ve gathered, it seems the ride is too noisy and hard for most people to live with in everyday driving, but the brakes and cooling system are inadequate for track use. That seems typical for the company.  The two non-Z Nissans I’ve owned were sporty in many ways and then surprisingly unsporty in others (rear suspension, not the best feeling manual shifter).  It’s like they have a brilliant but narcoleptic designer, and someone else just takes the designs, wipes off the drool, draws a few quick, simple lines to finish and sends it off.
       
      Back to the other pony cars.  I’ve noticed that the current Mustang and Camaro are very popular around the rural roads of Northeast Ohio.  It even seems to have spurred a revival of the originals, as I’ve been seeing more of those lately than in a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      I see the G35 / G37 as more of a 3-series fighter, not a pony car.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      It’s a smart thing for Hyundai to move the Genesis coupe upscale for the next gen since it was always more of a G37 competitor than either a pony car or 2 seat sports car (Z) competitor.

  • avatar

    Updated to include historical Pontiac Firebird sales. Sorry, Hyundai doesn’t break out sales of the GenCoupe.

  • avatar

    Any idea why my comments always get stuck in moderation?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’m not so sure that a competitive field influences overall sales.  The 09-10 improvement also simply tracks the introduction of new models and general improvement over 09’s carmageddon.
     
    Mazda is a non-player, and Nissan’s entry has bloated in cost, starting $10k higher than the others.
     
    It may be mfr incentives that drive sales for the rest of the year.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    How much of the Camaro’s lead over the Mustang can be attributed to the limited availability of the 5.0 and new v6 Mustangs? Also, the Challenger is a such a laggard because it is priced about 25% more than it is worth.

  • avatar

    Hyundai doesn’t break out Genesis coupe and sedan numbers individually, but if they did we would know just how weak sales of the coupe actually are.  They move about 2k Genesis cars overall per month.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Uhh, I thought it was the sales of the Genesis sedan that was so weak as you always like to proclaim?

      Yes, sales of the coupe stink, but still, for 2009, it’s no worse than that for 370Z and at all totally anemic like that for the RX-8.

      And oh, it’s more like moving 2,600-2,700 Genesis a month nowadays.

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty tepid for a coupe and sedan that was hyped to Hell and back by the press and blogs. 

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Yes, the sales of the coupe are pretty anemic (but still, sales of the coupe are on par w/ the Z which has also been heralded by the automotive press and greatly more than that of the RX-8, which is no slouch either).

      Otoh, the Genesis sedan was the 3rd best selling RWD, mid-size luxury import sedan after the E Class and 5 Series, outselling the GS and A6 combined in 2009.

      And for 2010, the sedan, in its 3rd year of sale in the US, is outselling the new Infiniti M.

      Knowing your irrational hatred for Hyundai, I’m sure you would continue to refer to sales of the Genesis sedan as “tepid”, but those within the industry do not.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The chart would be more interesting if you stacked the old Camaro and Firebird as “GM F-body.”

    If you’re going to include the 370Z, why not include, say, the Celica?  The Scion TC?  The Mitsubishi Eclipse?

    With the Z, it seems to me that the boundaries of “pony car” are very fuzzy.  It’s more like “sports coupes.”

    • 0 avatar

      I tried to keep the comparison focused… mass-market-brand RWD coupes only. As different from the Pony Cars as it is, the Z is the only serious attempt at that formula on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      Here’s the chart from earlier this year if you want a larger comparison: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/chart-of-the-day-weekend-toy-sales-june-and-first-half-of-2010/
      Doesn’t change much though – Mustang and Camaro pretty much annihilate anything remotely related to them under the broad umbrella of fun cars.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    I’m with the people saying that the Z isn’t a pony car. Christ, it looks like it’s half the size of the new Camaro/Charger/Mustang crowd. I haven’t driven the Detroit ponies, but having spent some time in the Z I can’t imagine that they’re anywhere near similar.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      Mustang is substantially longer than 370z (20″) with larger overhangs, but 370z is not a substantially lighter car. Mustang v6 weighs in around 3400-3450 lbs, 370z is about 3250.

    • 0 avatar
      bodayguy

      I owned two 350Zs and test drove the 370 multiple times. Ended up getting a 5.0 Mustang. I think they cater to the same buyer in many cases.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Huh. I’ll have to drive a mustang if I get the chance.
       
      Still, even given equal weight and power, I’d think the suspensions would be tuned differently. The 350 is pretty stiff.
       
      Can’t speak for the 370, though. I really don’t like what they did for the ass-end of it, either; it seems like complexity for complexity’s sake – which, come to think of it, appears to be a hallmark of modern vehicle design…

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    The Mustang vs. Camaro sales figures come at an interesting time.  Camaro is on a roll as it has become available and as GM’s fortunes and the economy in general have inched ahead.  The Mustang, however, has spent the last 6-8 months in purgatory, as anybody who knows anything about these cars is willing to wait for the 2011 models with vastly improved engines, both the V8 and the V6.  I think that these sales figures would have more relevance if Camaro had come out a year later, or if the Mustang engines had been available a year sooner.  As it is, Camaro has had an advantage and is doing well with it.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I imagine Mustang sales will take off again once the 2011 5.0L/3.7L cars become widely available and the dealers start dumping 2010 models –  Mustang buyers are waiting for one of those options.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Well at least there is some good news for GM – the love for the new Camaro is not as fleeting as some had predicted.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I’d be interested to see what percentage of each of the big three’s pony sales are made up of the V6 cars. Are they still the biggest sellers as they were in the past? Only from an entirely unscientific and subjective viewpoint from where I’m sat in my office in downtown Vancouver BC, a majority of these cars I see rumbling past my window appear to be the V8 versions.

  • avatar
    meefer

    Big powerful engine, RWD, 2 door styling, crude manual shifter, most of the internals based on other platforms, and a lot of untapped power that can be uncorked using mods.  Sounds like a muscle car to me.  Handling may be better then the Stang/Camaro/Challenger, but the basic formula applies.
    My money’s on the Mustang and the dumping of 2010s to put it over in sheer volume.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Get them while you can, come 2016 the new CAFE standards will spell the end of these cars as we know them today.

  • avatar

    Germany offers a similar car: the BMW 6-Series. I’ve only driven one once, and I couldn’t help thinking “upscale pony car.”

    Don’t see the similarity? Compare the BMW’s specs to those for the Camaro, and you’ll find they’re quite close. Especially the overall length, front interior dimensions, and curb weights. Add in a powerful throaty V8, RWD, and less than agile handling, and you’re there.

    The major differences between the BMW and Camaro: interior materials and price.

    My big surprise from the charts: the 2009 redesign did little to revive Z sales.

  • avatar
    ninja14blue

    “Germany offers a similar car: the BMW 6-Series. I’ve only driven one once, and I couldn’t help thinking “upscale pony car.””

    I’ve always thought of my ’06 GTO as a “poor-man’s M6″

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      It’s too bad the rest of America didn’t recognize that that’s what it was. We were so focussed on what it wasn’t – a larger than life cartoon caricature of a 60’s musclecar – that we didn’t appreciate it for what it was – a brilliant modern musclecar that was free of the trappings of the retro pony & musclecars.
      For all the complaints of the styling being bland, I thought it was tastefully understated, which was  a relief after all the tacky plastic clad bodies Pontiac had been cranking out.
      If something happens too my old GT, I may have to look hard at a GTO.

  • avatar
    nova73

    I have a sure fire way for GM and Ford to increase sales.  They should release badge-engineered versions of the Camaro and Mustang.  Call them the Pontiac Firebird and Mercury Capri.  What? Oh, never mind.

  • avatar
    niky

    Hey, a 6 is pretty agile… as long as you get one with the weenie 3 liter…
    The Z’s sales… well… there are those who find the redesign a bit… challenging…

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    The Z is tremendous fun. Unfortunately, it’s also a toy. Rear visibility is awful, NVH is very high, there isn’t even a vestigial rear seat, and the styling, while aggressive, isn’t especially attractive. But it is a true sports car. If that’s what you’re after, it’s your huckleberry.

    It’d be interesting to see the same chart normalized to a line of cumulative U.S. auto sales for each year. It’s hard for me to tell how much a given sales decline reflects consumer preferences for that car, or a tepid response of the market as a whole.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    So much for the Rustang seeing a sales jump once the new boat anchors came out.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Hyundai did themselves no favors in giving two distinct vehicles the same nameplate. By not breaking out sales of the coupe, Hyundai is basically saying they want no part in the pony car wars, which is odd, because the vibe I got from their marketing and all the press around the coupe was that it would indeed be competing with the Mustang et al. Maybe it’s brand perception talking, but just doesn’t seem luxurious or refined enough to compete with the likes of Infiniti.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Should be no real surprise.  Nothing has the name of a Mustang or a Camaro and it is a bunch of old guys buying the cars.  Will it continue at the current clip for long… probably not.  But, I don’t see the Z car or the on life support RX8 catching up.  The Genesis models not being broken out separately probably sells less than the Challenger, or maybe right at that mark.  It will be several more years before those cars have a real chance in this two fighter segment.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Consumer Reports just gave the thumbs up to the V6 Mustang and I would too based on outward visibility alone. The Camaro is just a HUGE tank with tiny windows. It looks cartoonish which is kind of cool, but I doubt I could drive one every day due to constant fear of blind spots. Same goes for the Challenger, its most the “retro” of the group if that’s your thing, to me its just a land yacht with a HEMI to smoke the tires.
    The Genesis and Z on my short list of cars I might own down the road, I kind of like that you don’t see them that much. The Z is kind of odd looking (looks like a river bed pebble), only has 2 seats but gains the superior hatchback layout. The G35 looks the best but has tiny trunk, also in the used market (where I can afford to pay) manuals are hard to find since its a luxury car 1st then sports coupe 2nd. If the Genesis had a hatchback it would be the clear winner to me. Its looks aren’t bad if you swap in an aftermarket grill and the ability to get a turbo 4 is a bonus (I love BOOST). Since its a Hyundai I’m hoping for low resale value making it a steal on the used market.
    Shame the RX-8’s engine is such a mess: no torque, eats oils, gets terrible mileage. Sure it out handles the others (from what I’ve read), but as a daily driver… forget-about-it. Will the new RWD Subie/Toyota add another player in this market? I doubt they’ll have the balls to do it right, it will either be too heavy or short on power despite the rumors.


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