The Chevrolet Camaro took the lead in the U.S. pony-car sales race in February, but the competition will heat up with the spring debut of the new ’11 Ford Mustang.

The Camaro outsold the Mustang last month, its top segment competitor, by 1,367 units. Ford Motor Co. delivered 5,115 Mustangs, compared with Chevy’s 6,482 Camaros, according to Ward’s data.

Chevy’s February tally represents a 21% gain on January, General Motors Co. says, noting the Camaro has racked up 75,000 deliveries since its launch in early 2009.

“Traditionally, we expect to see a dip in sales for rear-wheel-drive performance cars over the winter,” John Fitzpatrick, Chevrolet performance cars marketing manager, says in a statement. “But demand for Camaro shows no sign of slowing down, particularly in the Sunbelt.”

Texas, California and Florida account for 25% of all Camaro retail sales, and six of the top 10 U.S. Camaro dealers are located in Texas, GM says.

The Camaro has continued to win over buyers from other brands at about a 50% clip since the car’s launch, Fitzpatrick adds.

“We’re beginning to see owners of performance cars like (the) Mustang and (Nissan) 350Z trading in their cars to get behind the wheel of a Camaro,” he says. “To me, that’s an incredible testament to the appeal, and performance, of the Camaro.”

To keep up with demand, GM has been running a Saturday overtime shift at its Oshawa, ON, Canada, assembly plant.

Ford hopes to slow the Camaro’s frantic pace with the upcoming debut of the new Mustang, which boasts a pair of new powertrains – a 5.0L V-8 producing 412 hp and 390 lb.-ft. (529 Nm) of torque, and a 3.7 V-6 making 305 hp and 280 lb.-ft. (380 Nm) of torque.

The new Mustang already has more than 11,000 orders, half of which are for the V-6, an engine Ford is particularly bullish on due to its performance and segment-leading fuel economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency this week rated Mustang V-6s mated to the available 6-speed automatic transmission at19/31 mpg (12.4-7.6 L 100/km) city/highway.

The rating makes the Mustang the first production car in history to produce more than 300 hp and achieve more than 30 mpg (7.8 L 100/km) on the highway, Ford says.

“The Mustang engineering team aimed high, and through hard work, achieved fuel economy numbers that elevate the Mustang into a class by itself,” Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president-Global Product Development, says in a statement.

By comparison, the Camaro’s 304-hp 3.6L V-6 gets 18/ 29 mpg (13.1-8.1 L 100/km) when mated to a 6-speed automatic.

Ford currently is gearing up for production of the ’11 Mustang at its AutoAlliance International plant in Flat Rock, MI.

bpope@wardsauto.com