Hooniverse Asks: Pony Car Sales are Down, Is it Time to Panic?

Sales of America’s pony cars—presently represented by the Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro, and Ford’s evergreen Mustang—are in decline. The Mustang is still doing okay, seeing as its latest iteration has proven to be one of the fastest selling in the model’s history, but this year’s pace hasn’t kept up with the sales of its introductory year. The current Camaro is also fairly fresh but its sales YoY are down 6% so far this year, including a 40% drop in May. The Challenger meanwhile is selling at a rate three and a half per-cent lower than in 2015, and perhaps as the oldest of the trio faces the greatest fatigue from buyers.
The thing of it is, we love pony cars and we’ve seen them die off before. Sure, it’s unlikely that Ford will ever really kill off the Mustang as they unsuccessfully tried that in the ’90s with a possible replacement in the Probe. That proved unpopular among the faithful and the Mustang lived to see another decade. And then another. But the Camaro died once. And its Firebird platform mate is gone and never to be seen again. Are we facing another pony car mass extinction? Will the Camaro and Challenger follow the woolly mammoth, saber tooth cat and Hemi ‘Cuda into history? Should we be at all concerned about the possibility?
Image: 8tiny.com

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  1. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    Not sure if it means panic time, but very interested to see where the sales numbers go from here. The Challenger saw a nice boost in sales over the last few years, but I’m surprised to see the Camaro doing worse given how great the 6th gen is. Curious as well to see if auto sales have dropped as a whole this month…

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Having sat in a new Camaro and Mustang back to back, I’m not. It’s surprising how much more bunkery the Camaro is to the Ford. Combine that with the Camaro being more expensive, and the Mustang still being pretty adequately great, it just gets hard to justify the Chev.

      1. Ross Ballot Avatar
        Ross Ballot

        I haven’t driven the 6th gen, but from everything I’ve read/watched, the Camaro has the Mustang beat in terms of how it actually drives (short of the GT350). Given, the difference is probably smaller than most can discern, but to a dedicated canyon carver or track junkie I can see why they might spring for the Camaro. That being said, those demographics make up a tiny portion of the buying population…

  2. Alff Avatar

    Horrors! Think of the V8s!

  3. nanoop Avatar

    I’m not worried at all.

    View post on imgur.com

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      May your Google search algorithm be spoiled forever.

      1. Alff Avatar

        How do you think he got that in the first place?

        1. nanoop Avatar

          What do you mean, “spoiled”?

  4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Yes I would, Kent.

  5. crank_case Avatar

    Swings and roundabouts, I think the Pony Car will always go in and out of fashion, but I think it’s in danger of disappearing into the general coupe market as they get more refined and adopt turbo 4s. It used to be Ford vs Chevy vs Mopar, but now, you have to throw in BMW/Mercedes/Audi/Hyundai/Lexus as stuff people may cross shop especially on finance.

    1. JayP Avatar

      It’s getting to be a tighter market for sure.
      My 2012 GT to my pal’s 2009 M3 sedan.
      Practically the same power and weight but my 302 is way smoother at idle.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        How do these two perform if you put them on the same course? Neat comparison, I guess?

        1. JayP Avatar

          I’ve not had my car long.
          Both of us had trans issues so it’ll be another day.
          Things that will cause me problems… he runs Conti slicks and I’m on 200TW tires. And he’s a friggin’ fast driver so there’s that.

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            Are you close enough to swap cars? I remember how poor-proud I was when I let friends drive my ’77 242, my first car – it was super tired and a typical “last owner”-vehicle. That helped making everybody positively surprised.
            Anyway, it would be a worthwhile comparison. Once you mentioned similar weight and power, I wouldn’t expect too much else to be equal.

          2. JayP Avatar

            I’d let him take my car for a few laps – just to see what he’d say.
            The BMW has IRS and the SMG trans.
            But the M3 was the benchmark for the Boss.

  6. Kiefmo Avatar

    Honda’s V6/manual Accord Coupe can walk all over the Ecoboost and V6 Mustang in every test of acceleration except 0-60. It even trumps them in 5-60 thanks to the responsiveness of the Honda V6. The disparities in cornering grip and stopping probably come down to economy vs. sporting tire selection, and would be effectively wiped out with identical tires. Humorously, the V6 Accord will walk away from even the Mustang GT in top-gear passing acceleration.
    And all that’s on an engine architecture that goes back nearly 20 years.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Interesting – they ceased selling the Accord here 1.5 years ago (all variants), whereas the “smaller” Mustangs are really popular (by toy car standards, there are certainly more Teslas around, which cost about the same here, roughly…)

    2. Zentropy Avatar

      I agree the Honda V6 is formidable on paper, but is it really about the objective numbers? I have little interest in the 4-cyl Mustang because I simply think the V6 is the better mill. But a subjective comparison of Accord Coupe vs. V6 Mustang is apples-to-oranges. Sporty front-drivers are pleasing to drive until you drive a well-sorted RWD. For me, driving comes down to feedback and rewards. It’s the change in brain chemistry I’m looking for, not the stopwatch results. I want a smile on my face, not bragging rights.

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        Yes, I know. I was playing devil’s advocate. My DD is RWD and takes as long to get to 60 as many of these new V6es take to get to 100.
        For the most part, almost no new car appeals to me. I kind of feel like I’m on the outside looking in when discussing then, so I feel free to make outlandish statements like the above.

        1. Zentropy Avatar

          My DD is unfortunately FWD out of necessity. Very few new cars appeal to me, either. I keep my eyes open for 2002s, E28s, 240Zs, and 60s Volvos. My favorite DD was an ’87 BMW 325 that was admittedly slow but immensely rewarding to drive. I regret ever selling it.

    3. ptschett Avatar

      Depends on source… C&D has the Ecoboost (but performance-package) Mustang ahead of the Honda for the 1/4-mile. The 5-60 win could just come down to dumb luck of where the 2-3 shift point is (I say this because I needed to be ready to clutch in & do the 2-3 shift at 58 MPH in my old 6MT Challenger.) If you really want top-gear passing, the ZF 8HP can allegedly bang off an 8-2 shift (I’ve personally seen it do an 8-4)… 🙂

      1. Kiefmo Avatar

        Funny, I used C&D as my source. I’ll have to go back and check.
        Also, the ecoboost mustang’s dismal 5-60 has nothing to do with shift points and everything to do with turbo lag. That’s why it’s a full second slower 5-60 than 0-60. The Honda J35 is stupid responsive, and has a nice flat torque curve (makes 85% if it’s peak by the low 2k range), which is why the Honda only loses 0.3s 5-60 versus 0-60.

      2. theskitter Avatar

        It’s bad enough to use top gear passing as a gauge of engine power, without asking what the top ratio is. But allowing automatics to downshift, and calling it top gear passing? This… aggression… will not stand. Man.

  7. engineerd Avatar

    This is akin to worrying about whether or not the sun will rise the next day because it’s cloudy today. Sales of any class of car have their ebbs and flows. The horsepower wars of the past decade have produced some incredible pony cars which have enjoyed very high sales over that same time period. I look at this as more of a market correction than portending dark days ahead.

  8. Professor Lavahot Avatar
    Professor Lavahot

    Has humanity reached peak panic? Stay tuned, we’ll tell you after this commercial break!

  9. Zentropy Avatar

    It’ll ebb and flow. For me, the more doors the better. I admire the performance, but have never been a pony-car driver because they’re like designer jeans– who am I trying to impress? I prefer performance packed into sedans and wagons so I can enjoy the drive without compromising utility.

  10. hike15 Avatar

    Well the sales numbers of an emotional purchase like a pony car could be a sign of things to come, especially with 2 of them being relatively recent complete re-designs. I still find it amazing how close the 8 year old Challenger is to the brand new Camaro when looking at sales numbers.

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