One of the automotive industry’s longest-running rivalries could play out on a NASCAR track near you starting in 2019.
Kurt Busch told ESPN’s Bob Pockrass on Tuesday that Ford plans to introduce a new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car design for 2019, leaving us with one question: what model will it be based on?
With just three sedans remaining in its lineup — Focus, Fusion, Taurus — Ford has slim pickings if it wants to go the traditional sedan route. What’s more, when you take a closer look at each of those models, it seems unlikely that Ford will choose any of them.
First off, the Focus is a compact, making it smaller than most cars used as the basis of NASCAR racers. What’s more, given Americans’ declining interest in small cars, Ford only sold a combined 158,385 examples of the Focus hatchback and sedan in 2017.
The Taurus, by contrast, is a mid-size sedan, which makes it perfect for a stock car. But with just 33,242 units of the Taurus sold in 2017, it might actually be a less likely candidate than the Focus.
As for the Fusion, its relative popularity means another stock car based on the mid-size sedan is more plausible than the aforementioned choices. That said, its steady decline in sales over the last four years has forced Ford to cancel the its 2020 redesign, and has put the model’s future in doubt.
So what options does that leave Ford?
The most conceivable, and most exciting of them all: the Mustang.
Although NASCAR’s long-standing “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mentality tells us stock cars should look like four-door sedans the average consumer can afford, Chevrolet’s new-for-2018 Camaros remind us that’s not necessarily the case.
Consumer preference in the United States has shifted such that the most consumers don’t actually buy sedans anymore. As a result, involvement in NASCAR now is a means of building brand loyalty, rather than compelling people to buy a specific product.
And let’s be honest, Ford will generate a hell of a lot more excitement by putting its iconic pony car on track than it would by updating its Fusion racer. Plus, the prospect of seeing Mustangs and Camaros doing battle on Sundays is enough to get even the most casual race fan to tune in.