Saleen Teases a New Mustang as It Gears Up to Go International

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With the release of its new Mustang just around the corner, Ford’s (NYSE:F) shoppers aren’t the only ones getting excited. Tuners and aftermarket specialists have been salivating for the opportunity to apply their skills and talents to the new car, which will undoubtably be immensely popular — and since the Mustang is going global for the first time, the market opportunities for these companies is considerably larger than it ever has been before.

Saleen (OTC:SLNN) is among the top vendors of such products, having started out in 1984 with the Fox body Mustangs before branching out into Camaros, Challengers, and its own creations, like the critically acclaimed Saleen S7. Saleen made waves more recently when founder and CEO Steve Saleen announced that it would be turning its attention to the Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S sedan, the first time it has tried its hand at an electric car.

The new Saleen, dubbed the Saleen 302 (named after the famed Ford V8 engine from the 1970s and ’80s), has seen some obvious aerodynamic enhancements, with the more pronounced front splitter (which looks like it could be carbon fiber), and that menacing hood scoop implies that Saleen’s attention wasn’t completely absorbed in new bodywork and aerodynamics. The new hood, with it’s sharp creases and the smiling grille make the car look relentlessly sinister — and we can’t wait to see the rest of it.

“With this model being the first major Mustang redesign since 2005, we took this as an opportunity to push the limits in both design and performance,” Saleen’s company said with the release of the photo. “We feel this latest Saleen Mustang model is perfectly positioned as the next American exotic, campaigning on the world stage.”

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Earlier this week, Saleen released a 10-K that said that the company was going to “return as a global high performance automotive brand and expand our production, sales, and marketing operations extensively within the markets of the USA and into multiple international markets.” The news that Saleen is expanding internationally — including China — comes right when Ford is preparing to release the Mustang in more foreign markets than it ever has. Saleen, who we spoke with us on the phone about the news, said that his brand is already well-known through its racing enterprises, and so the leap to expand their parts and performance business abroad wasn’t a huge one to make.

He and the company are remaining largely mute on the subject at the moment, but he did shed a little bit of light on what the international markets can expect. While Ford introduced its more fuel-efficient, smaller displacement EcoBoost engine that foreign buyers might find more palatable, Saleen has no intentions of deviating from old fashioned American muscle formula of huge power up front powering the wheels at the back. In other words, there won’t be much going on in the way of cultural or market sensitivity — Saleen’s selling an American muscle car in international markets because that’s what they want and expect from him.

On that note, I asked Saleen if he and his firm had any plans to play with Ford’s new line of EcoBoost engines, which is increasingly becoming a crutch on which Ford is putting the burdens of its compliance with CAFE standards. While Saleen might be more affectionate of superchargers than turbochargers, he said that the firm would “never say never,” and that they are certainly interested in all new technologies — emphasized in no small way by their ambitious Tesla project.

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We also asked Saleen about what the new Dodge Challenger Hellcat, a 707 horsepower behemoth (making it the most powerful production muscle car ever), meant for his portfolio, which includes a high-horsepower variant of the Challenger. Saleen said that there were no plans yet to add anything further to the new car.

“Our products dovetail nicely into certain niches and price points,” he explained. The Hellcat, which also boasts 650 pound-feet of torque, doesn’t have a price tag quite yet but it’s hard to imagine that it won’t have any impact on Saleen’s business of selling high-output Dodges. But it’s worth mentioning that Saleen’s vehicles are about more than raw horsepower, it’s more of a lifestyle brand that offers something more unique, both inside and out.

It will be interesting to see in any case how Saleen (and others) reacts to the advent of super-high performance takes on muscle cars like the Hellcat, the Z/28, and others as they become morph from drag toys to fully capable sports cars — something Saleen has been doing for a while now. I suppose there’s always room for improvement, right?

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