DETROIT, MI – The arrival of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is just the latest signal that when it comes to the pony car wars, the Detroit Three are not horsing around.
The word “performance” was frequently uttered by General Motors personnel before, during and after the unveiling of the all-new Camaro on Saturday in Detroit.
“For Camaro enthusiasts, it retains iconic design cues and offers even more performance,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of product development. “For a new generation of buyers, the 2016 Camaro incorporates our most innovative engineering ideas with finely honed performance and leading design.”
But while the word performance seemed to be on a lot of folks’ lips, it wasn’t just being used to describe GM’s signature pony car.
At the same time as the new Camaro was being rolled out in front of the media, Ford Motor Co. sent out this promoted tweet:
Did someone say performance? #Shelby #GT350® http://t.co/4licAUkfEc pic.twitter.com/zxxjD0ajKz
— Ford Mustang (@FordMustang) May 15, 2015
“It’s great that the pony car wars are heating up again,” said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book. “(The Camaro is) a car that will appeal to buyers across all demographics and like the Mustang, gets away from the retro styling themes, which may also help with younger buyers. If it’s successful, the Camaro/Mustang could also bode well for a resurgence in coupes with more generous back seats than these pony cars. Back in the 1970s, coupes were king, maybe they are poised for a comeback.”
The battle for buyers
So far, sales of pony cars indicate they are in some kind of resurgence. In the first four months of this year, sales of the 2015 Ford Mustang in the U.S. jumped 60 percent over the same period last year to about 43,000 sold.
During that same time, deliveries of the 2015 Chevy Camaro in the U.S. dipped 15 percent to about 24,000. But, playing long ball, GM said earlier this year the Camaro passed the Ford Mustang in 2010 to become the best-selling performance car in the U.S.
In any case, the Mustang seems to be winning the sales battle in the U.S. lately, and it’s poised to global too, with Ford announcing in January the 2015 Mustang will be exported to more than 100 markets for the first time in its 50-year history.
The Dodge Challenger, meanwhile, has been selling well in the U.S. FCA said sales of the Challenger rose 41 percent in the U.S. in the first four months of this year to about 23,000 units.
This spring, FCA has not been able to keep up the fierce demand for its SRT Hellcats. Demand for the limited-supply Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats has been so strong, that the Auburn Hills automaker has warned customers that a small number of its own dealerships may be taking orders of the 707-horsepower muscle cars that they can’t fill.
But what about what’s under the hood?
Which brings us back to that key word: performance.
The sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro is faster and 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor, GM said.
It will come equipped with 2.0L turbo that gets 275 horsepower and can move the car from 0-60 mph in less than 6 seconds. It will also get a 3.6L V-6 that will get an estimated 335 horsepower, and a 6.2L V-8 in the SS trim that gets an estimated 455 hp.
The 2016 Camaro goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.
The 2015 Ford Mustang comes with engine size ranging from a base 3.7L V-6 to a 2.3L EcoBoost, and a 5.0L V-8 for the GT trim. Its horsepower ranges from 300 to 435 for those models.
Ford has also unveiled an all-new, Shelby GT350 Mustang with more than 500 horsepower. Powered with a 5.2-liter V8 engine, Ford says the new GT350 is essentially an all-day track car that is also street legal.
And the Dodge Challenger has a base, 3.6L engine that gets 305 horsepower, a 5.7L HEMI V-8 that gets 375 hp, a 6.4L HEMI V-8 that gets 485 hp and that hard-to-come-by SRT Hellcat is powered by a supercharged 6.2L V-8 that gets 707 hp.
Outside of the engine block, each of these offerings from the Detroit Three have gone retro with much of their overall designs, and that appears to be resonating with buyers as well.
The pony wars, which seemed to fizzle out in the 1990s, could be back in full throttle.
“There has been serious competition between the Mustang, Challenger and now Camaro, and sales numbers have reflected these dogfights,” said Akshay Anand, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “While Mustang has handily outsold Camaro and Challenger in recent months, Camaro should be able to climb back up the ranks with the all-new redesign.”
David Muller is the automotive and business reporter for MLive Media Group in Detroit. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter