Friday, January 2, 2009

DEARBORN, Mich. | At least one automaker doesn’t think the era of the muscle car is receding in the rearview mirror.

Ford Motor Co. is looking to appeal to performance car enthusiasts with its 2010 Ford Shelby GT500.

The latest model of the Shelby pays closer attention to quality and interior detail, Ford said during a preview of the car set to debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which runs Jan. 11 to 25.

The Shelby Mustang is in its fourth model since being reintroduced in 2007. The car was first produced by Ford in collaboration with former race-car driver turned designer, Carroll Shelby, who first refashioned the Mustang in the 1960s.

Although the Shelby is a high-end specialty car, Ford hopes that the pumped-up design — racing stripes that adorn the seats — and performance help show off the company’s commitment to high performance and quality.

Ford spokesman Alan Hall said the Shelby “polishes the Ford oval” because the car gives off good vibes about Ford, particularly as the company’s image may have been tarnished in recent months as its U.S. counterparts prepare to receive billions of dollars in loans from the government. Ford has said it doesn’t plan to dip into loan monies that may be available from the Treasury Department.

“Products like the Shelby speak to the die-hard enthusiast and help fire up their passion about the brand and be our product advocates to friends and neighbors,” Hall said. “It really shows that Ford still loves making cars, making hot cars. We’re not just producing appliances.”

Consumers unable to buy a Shelby may go to Ford showrooms and end up purchasing a new Mustang with a V-6 or V-8 engine, Mr. Hall said. The 2010 Mustang was introduced in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Ford sold 3,667 Mustangs in November, down 50.1 percent from November 2007.

New features on the Shelby include rear cameras to help assist in parking, a feature generally reserved for luxury cars, sport utility vehicles or minivans. The 2010 model also improves its highway mileage performance by two miles per gallon with an estimated 22 mpg on highways and 14 mpg in the city. The car is expected to hit showrooms in spring.

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