Back in the Saddle?
With the Car Allowance Rebate System a.k.a ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program officially over and American auto sales needing another stimulus, the industry and consumers are looking forward to the custom tuned delights promised by the annual SEMA show. While SEMA 2009 promises the usual range of over the top tuner specials and reminders of upcoming products from the major brands, stalwart Mustang tuner/manufacturer Saleen hopes to make a splash with its new S281.
While little information is currently available on the S281, exciting teaser images have been released and they suggest that Saleen intends to stay in the game, despite the economy and uncertain direction after the departure of Steve Saleen in 2007.
With plenty of competition in the Mustang tuner market, many wondered if the Saleen brand could hang on. Full support by new ownership, MJ Acquisitions, has broadened Saleen’s portfolio and reinvigorated the company. As former CEO Chris Theodore stated in a February press release,” This influx of new life into the Saleen, RaceCraft and SpeedLab brands is a win-win situation.” full release
The S281 is based on the 2010 Mustang that has been sweeping muscle car comparison tests and adds visual flair along with performance components that have been developed alongside the 435 S program. The styling cues are classic Saleen with a twist provided by Ford’s 2010 refresh of the Mustang. If the current model structure carries over into the new car, the S281 is certain to offer a range of power and performance options to interested customers.
The S281 and other Saleen projects such as the 435 S prove that the company has been reenergized. While this is great news for Saleen devotees, Saleen’s thoroughly engineered products carry a hefty price tag and will likely face stiff competition. Perhaps Saleen’s biggest competitor is Ford’s own Shelby GT500 – also reinvigorated for 2010. It’s a heck of a car with all of the balance and presence you expect from Shelby and, of course, it has the brand value that only the Shelby name can provide. For those on a budget, there’s always Steeda or Roush and if you haven’t noticed, there’s still a fair amount of Camaro fever in the air.
Yet the S281 occupies a somewhat unique niche in that it represents a completely reengineered vehicle, not unlike Callaway Corvettes of years past or even today’s Shelby. Saleen’s challenge is to help consumers understand the value of the S281 among the alternatives. Given the teaser images and the new leadership’s confidence in the company, one can be sure that at least Saleen loyalists will be excited about the new model.
Photo credit: Flickr user SALEEN-SPEEDLAB