50 Years After the Fairlane Committee

20 Sep

FairlaneInnThe Ford Mustang has lasted for 5o years with the latest car being as highly anticipated as the rush was for the initial car in 1964. The assembled group of young product planners had been hand picked by Lee Iacocca. Named the Fairlane Committee after the new Fairlane Inn where they met weekly in a private dining room, their charter was to help Ford Motor Company create a new identity with an emphasis on the 18 to 34 year old customer. That age group was estimated to be the ones buying 50% of all new cars from 1960-1970.  Per Lee Iacocca’s book “We met at the hotel because a lot of people back at the office were just waiting for us to fall on our faces, I was a young Turk, a new vice president who hadn’t yet proved himself. My guys were talented, but they weren’t always the most popular people in the company.”
They went through tons of market research and targeted their product towards a group that preferred floor shift, included females, the growing middle class, and the new teenage baby boomers. The Fairlane Committee also recognized the value of buyer emotions. Eventually they successfully got the 1962 line up of Fords to have Vinyl roofs, 4 speeds, and more powerful engines and by 1963, had a marketing tagline of Total Performance.
Meanwhile, the Committee had narrowed their targeted customer to 4 possible types; two car families, women who wanted low maintenance cars, low on cash young people, and sporty people. To hit the target, the car would have no expensive engineering, no independent suspension, nor overhead cams. It would need to be a 4 seat car, about the size of a Jaguar, with a long front hood, implying power, and sell for around $2500.
The design teams struggled at first to come up with the right look. In July of 1962, with two weeks to go before the design deadline, Iacocca had all the designers within Ford compete to submit the best design. By mid August, the winning design and clay mockup was complete.
Initially badged and nicknamed Cougar, it was rejected by the corporate decision makers. Eventually, Iacocca won over Henry Ford II with the caveat that, “…you have to sell it. It’s your ass if it you don’t.”IMG_2439
Built on a Falcon, using upgraded parts from the Fairlane. The initial bodies had structural failures and needed stiffening after testing. They were able to keep its weight down to just 2449 pounds, and the cost was within the goal as well. As the car neared completion, the name became the next hurdle. Though Cougar was an option, the list of names was reviewed and Iacocca helped them finalize on Mustang. The logo switched from a cat to a horse.
In a publicity stunt in late 1962, an unrelated special project mid-engine car at Ford was branded as a Mustang and ran hot laps around Watkins Glen racetrack prior to the US Grand Prix with none other than Dan Gurney at the wheel. It had nothing to do with the real Mustang project, 63protobut it did heighten awareness of the upcoming car. The following year, Ford had finished a real Mustang prototype in time to run at Watkins Glen before making the car show circuit. The launch of the car happened on April 17th, preceded by an ad campaign that started the evening prior, with newspaper ads starting the day of.
The first day, Ford sold 22,000 Mustangs. Within a year, they’d sold 418,812 total. Now, after 50 years, total production is nearing 10,000,000 Mustangs and still selling well. It has earned its status as a true American success story.2015-Ford-Mustang-Live-Shot-Main-Art
The latest design has been hyped well, from being placed at the top of the Empire State Bldg, to plenty of photos and details.  Anticipation is high for the actual 2015 launch, which should happen any day now. Nice Mustang legacy.

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