LOS ANGELES – Ford Motor Co. is counting on its new fuel-efficient ’11 Mustang V-6 to conquest buyers from some unlikely sources.

“When we look at (vehicles) cross-shopped with (the) Mustang, you see (Chevrolet) Camaro, (Dodge) Challenger and (Nissan) 370Z,” Amy Marentic, Ford group marketing manager-cars and cross/utility vehicles, tells Ward’s at a backgrounder for the car here.

“But you also see (the Honda) Accord coupe and (Nissan) Altima coupe pop up,” she adds. “Between 2006 and 2008, (consumers) cross-shopping between C and C/D-segment vehicles (was) up 12 points; it’s a huge move.”

The Mustang currently enjoys decent conquest rates, Ford says, with 55% of V-6 buyers and 45% of V-8 customers coming from other brands.

But the auto maker is looking to increase that rate, particularly with the 305-hp V-6 model, by touting its fuel efficiency and features.

The ’11 Mustang equipped with a 3.7L V-6 gets 19/30 mpg (12.4-7.8 L/100 km) city/highway when mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, besting the ’10 Honda Accord Coupe’s 19/28 (12.4-8.4 L/100 km) rating, Marentic points out.

“When we also look at customers that shop Mustang and choose to go somewhere else, the No.1 reason is fuel economy, which is why we addressed it and hit it so hard,” she says.

In comparison, the outgoing ’10 Mustang with a 4.0L V-6 achieved only 16/24 mpg (14.7-9.8 L/100 km) with an automatic transmission.

When it comes to conveying the message the Mustang is as technologically advanced as its Asian rivals, there are several challenges to overcome, says Scott Tobin, vehicle line director-cars and CUVs.

Surprisingly, two of the largest hurdles are the historic Mustang nameplate and Ford, itself, he says.

“We talk about looks, power and performance, because that’s what Mustang has always been about and it is still about,” he says. “But we don’t actually communicate like we should all the technology and the fuel-economy capability of the vehicle, and today you see that changing.”

An upcoming advertising campaign, set to launch in May, will focus on some of the Mustang’s differentiating features, including the Sync hands-free multimedia system, adjustable in-vehicle ambient lighting and Ford’s MyKey system, designed to encourage safer teen driving and seatbelt use.

Ford doesn’t have a target demographic for the car, with customers ranging from “16-year-old girls to 68-year-old retired racecar guys,” Tobin says.

To reach such a broad customer base, Marentic and her team have developed a multi-tiered advertising approach, with traditional forms of media, such as TV, used to tout the new Mustang V-6, and enthusiast events, such as NASCAR races, serving as a backdrop for V-8 marketing initiatives.

While Marentic doesn’t expect a dramatic shift in the Mustang V-8’s main audience, which is largely performance-oriented, she has high hopes the V-6 will help draw in new buyers, particularly more women and younger men.

To reach them, a social-media campaign is being developed, she says, noting Mustang has 440,000 fans on Facebook.

“We’re working with mom bloggers (and) young men bloggers in the social-media space to try and get the (Mustang) message out.”

bpope@wardsauto.com