Australia’s best-selling sports car in 2016 received a two-star score following tests released by local ANCAP and European Euro NCAP crash authorities on Wednesday.
James Goodwin, ANCAP chief executive, says the car was found wanting following a series of standardised tests featuring V8-powered coupes.
Part of the reason for the Mustang’s poor result stems from a lack of advanced driver aids such as autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance that will feature in a facelifted version of the car due locally in 2018.
Physical crash test results found airbags that failed to inflate properly and poor performance in frontal-offset and side-impact pole tests used in Australia, but not the US - the Mustang's main market.
"This result is simply shocking for such a newly designed and popular vehicle," Goodwin says.
"There's a strong consumer expectation that a new car should be five-stars and a sports car is no different. Safety should never be compromised."
Ford says the Mustang performed well in US testing, and that many of the current model's shortcomings will be addressed in its successor.
"We are disappointed by the Ford Mustang Euro NCAP rating. Mustang is a safe vehicle meeting, or exceeding, all applicable safety standards globally," a Ford spokesman said.
"Mustang's safety credentials are further demonstrated by the five-star NHTSA NCAP rating awarded in the US as well as a 'good' IIHS rating.”
"Customers can continue to enjoy their Mustang knowing that it features advanced safety features and a structure designed to manage crash energy under a variety of crash modes.”
"Ford is committed to continued improvement in vehicle safety, and the 2018 Mustang in Australia will be equipped with driver assistance features such as AEB and Lane Keeping Aid.”
Unlike mainstream vehicle categories, many sports cars are not crash-tested owing to the high cost of buying and smashing vehicles in triplicate. Benchmark models such as the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-Benz SL do not carry independently assessed safety ratings, but the affordable price and global popularity of the Mustang pushed Euro NCAP to put it to the test.
The shock two-star result - which puts the Mustang on the footing as China's first-generation Great Wall ute - is a graphic example of the differences between European and American crash tests programs.
Goodwin says ANCAP tried to crash-test the car locally, but Ford was reluctant to comply with the independent body's requests.
"This car has been on our radar for some time and we've been trying to get a rating for consumers as quickly as we can," he says.
"Unfortunately the brand was not assisting us to get a rating out for the mustang. And it's now quite clear why they weren't assisting us."
For its part, Ford says it "worked proactively with Euro-NCAP who then shared the result with ANCAP to assist in providing a result".
Without an improvement in crash test results the existing two-star result scuttles any chance of the Mustang being selected for highway patrol duty with Australian police forces, which had shortlisted the pony car as a potential replacement for the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.