DETROIT -- The Ford Mustang, after more than 50 years as a top-selling sports car in the United States, hopes to reach global domination with the help of Chinese buyers.
So far, it seems to be working. Ford is reporting 33 percent sales growth in China so far this year, with three months remaining.
Since Mustang's global launch in 2015, the iconic muscle car has become the bestselling sports car in the world's fastest-growing car market. In 2016, sales rose 74 percent –– from 4,076 to 7,107.
The China version of Mustang carried a higher starting price of $60,245 in 2017, or more than twice the U.S. starting price of $25,585 for the 2018 model. The difference is largely due to import tariffs and other taxes.
Chinese buyers purchased 3,114 Mustangs from January through September this year. The new 2018 Ford Mustang doesn't ship overseas until next year.
"We had about 100 members of Mustang clubs in China when they had to import cars on their own," said Mark Schaller, marketing manager for Mustang. "Now there are more than 3,000 members of Mustang clubs in China."
The international appetite does not surprise Rich Homan, senior vehicle evaluation editor at Kelley Blue Book.
"I remember walking through Hyundai's design studio in Seoul decades ago, and all of the young Korean designers had images of their favorite sports cars plastered around their cubes to give them inspiration," Homan said. "By far, the Ford Mustangs outnumbered every other shape from around the world."
Global sales of the Ford Mustang rose 6 percent from 141,953 in 2015 to 150,431 in 2016. The Dearborn-based automaker is hoping to continue the momentum.
Mustang also has become the best-selling sports car in Australia. Previously, Australians rebuilt the car on their own to put the steering wheel on the right. In 2017, the Mustang in Australia started at $38,804 or about 52 percent more than in the 2018 Mustang in the U.S.