Mustang Outsells Camaro as Smaller Turbo Engine Puts V-8 at Risk

Ford Motor Co.’s Mustang has pulled ahead of its perennial rival, GM’s Chevrolet Camaro, in part by offering a smaller engine that’s turbocharged to satisfy the need for speed and threatens to send the V-8 to the boneyard.

The Mustang, now available with a turbo four-cylinder engine, has seen its U.S. sales jump 60 percent this year through April to 42,955. General Motors Co. plans a similar offering for the Camaro, which has slumped 15 percent to 24,229. The Mustang hasn’t beaten the Camaro in annual sales since 2009.

The four-cylinder option contributed to the surge in Mustang deliveries, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report released Thursday. Consumers prefer the smaller engine because the turbo technology boosts both horsepower and fuel efficiency, said Kevin Tynan, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

“The landscape is really changing,” he said in an interview. “The younger car culture doesn’t need big V-8s anymore. This is the way we’re going to make horsepower in the future.”

Even as gasoline prices hover at five-year lows, consumers still want better mileage and automakers are working to meet higher fuel-economy standards. The Mustang and Camaro generally attract consumers in the mid-20s to mid-30s age group, whose preferences have shifted from maximizing horsepower to balancing power, price and fuel efficiency, Tynan said.

The previous generation of pony-car buyers has “aged and isn’t really buying,” he said. “The new 25-to-35 group is interested in something different: more balanced performance, with fuel economy and an affordable price.”

Back Burner

The popularity of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine will keep pushing the V-6 and V-8 versions to the back burner, Tynan said. For the next redesign of the Mustang and Camaro, Ford and Detroit-based GM will probably consider eliminating the V-8 option, he said.

For now, Ford still is selling plenty of V-8 Mustangs. During April, 43 percent of U.S. buyers chose the biggest engine, while 35 percent went with the four-cylinder and 22 percent picked the V-6, according to data from the Dearborn, Michigan-based company cited in the report.

The V-8 share was up from 38 percent for all of 2012, when the V-6 was the only other option. Lower gasoline prices have boosted the V-8, but that will diminish as consumers continue to shift to the smaller, turbocharged engines, which can provide horsepower similar to their bigger counterparts, Tynan said.

The V-8s are “not going to go away mid-cycle,” he said. “It’s going to be five-plus years out and engine distribution with the V-8 will determine how seriously they’ll consider that.”