The Ford Mustang has blown past the Chevy Camaro as America's best-selling pony car, and in June, it wasn't even close. The 'Stang outsold the Camaro 11,719 to 8,611 cars. The Camaro remained ahead of the Dodge Challenger, which sold 6,845 units. Even though the Camaro did post an 11.5-percent sales improvement in June, the competition is arguably stronger than at anytime since the 1970s muscle-car era. The Mustang's sales leapt a whopping 53.6 percent, while the Challenger saw a gain of 56 percent.
Several factors are weighing down Camaro sales, including its lame duck status. Chevy is launching a new generation of the Camaro this year that's more than 200 pounds lighter, offers a new turbo four-cylinder engine option, and has a nicer interior than the outgoing model. Put simply: wait a few months and you can get a better car. It's also unlikely Chevy will jack up the price much, as it's historically kept the Camaro within reach of everyday enthusiasts.
While Chevy fans wait in anticipation for their new sports car, Ford and Dodge have downshifted. The new Mustang, which went on sale last year, is faster and more sophisticated than its predecessor. It also offers a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, which Ford has credited for the Mustang's recent uptick and makes up 36 percent of the car's sales, Ford analyst Erich Merkle said.
June's performance allowed the Mustang to widen its sales gap with the Camaro this year. Through the first five months, Ford sold 68,290 Mustangs, a 54.4-percent increased compared with 2014. Chevy sold 42,593 Camaros, an 8.7-percent decrease. The Challenger – long the No. 3 pony car in sales volume – has seen its sales surge 41 percent this year to 37,011 units.
Spokesman Monte Doran said Chevy expected that 2015 would be a "relatively soft year" for the Camaro. "Mustang is taking advantage of years' worth of pent-up demand for an independent rear suspension," he said. "When Camaro introduced an IRS, in 2009, it helped make us the best-selling performance car in America. For five years straight."
Still, the rankings have allowed the Blue Oval some bragging rights this year, and Ford sales and marketing vice president Mark LaNeve called the Mustang's sales "smoking hot." They've sizzled in California, where retail 'Stang sales increased 157 percent in June, Merkle said.
Even through the rankings have shuffled this year among the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger, the across-the-board sales increases in June indicate general health for the market. "US sales in June reflect a more optimistic consumer, from increases in sporty car sales like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro to the continued growth in SUV sales," IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said in a statement.
So the Mustang is new, and the Camaro is old, which brings us to the curious case of the Challenger, which was freshened with a new interior, more technology, an eight-speed transmission, and styling tweaks for the 2015 model year. It's also been supported by a vigorous advertising campaign – we haven't heard this much from the Dodge Brothers since the age of Gatsby – and the bright halo of the 707-hp Hellcat Challenger. There's also a zero-day supply for the Challenger Scat Pack model. "The new 2015 model-year Challenger launch continues to gain traction, helping the Challenger continue to set sales records," spokesperson Kristin Starnes said.
While Ford and Dodge have capitalized on the Chevy's time of transition, the gen six Camaro is mere months away. Despite its strengthened competition, Chevy doesn't plan to remain No. 2. As General Motors product chief Mark Reuss put it: "If you're not here to win, why play the game?"