Production of the redesigned ’15 Ford Mustang begins later today at Ford’s Flat Rock, MI, assembly plant, marking the first global program for the historic pony car and one that will see its first 4-cyl. engine installation in 21 years.

“The Mustang is and will continue to be an automotive icon,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford president-The Americas, says in a statement ahead of the launch.

“Expanding its availability globally affords our customers around the world the opportunity to have a true, firsthand Mustang experience, one unlike any other,” he says.

For the first time since Mustang production began in 1964, the car will be exported to more than 120 countries. Europe and China represent two key new markets for the Mustang, although output of right-hand-drive models opens up 25 other important destinations such as the U.K., Australia and South Africa.

The reintroduction of a 4-cyl. engine option also elevates the Mustang’s export promise. An all-new 2.3L EcoBoost making 310 hp and 300 lb.-ft. (407 Nm) of torque joins a venerable 3.7L V-6 and legendary 5.0L V-8 with technology upgrades pushing it to

+435 hp and 400 lb.-ft. (542 Nm) of torque.

Ford pledges no compromises from the first Mustang 4-banger in more than two decades. Engineers focused on tuning the low-inertia, twin-scroll turbocharger to mitigate lag at step-off, Mustang Vehicle Engineering Manager Tom Barnes recently told WardsAuto.

“We wanted very quick time-to-torque,” Barnes said. “We wanted to make the torque available early on, and we got that.”

Other highlights of the new Mustang, which in its 50 years has accounted for 9 million sales, include a more contemporary exterior but one that remains faithful to its original fastback appearance. Inside, an instrument panel badge exclusive to ’15 models featuring a galloping pony logo and the phrase “Mustang – Since 1964” serve as a nod to the half-century of production witnessed by the car in April.

Underneath, the Mustang will receive an independent rear suspension for the first time, a change almost certain to improve its driving dynamics.

The updated Mustang also will look to make new inroads within its home market, where it surrendered sales leadership to the Chevy Camaro. The Camaro outsold the Mustang last year 80,567 to 77,186 and through the first seven months of 2014 the Chevy holds a 5,838-unit lead.

Output of the latest Mustang comes on the heels of a $555 million investment at Flat Rock to accommodate the car’s redesign. Key updates include a state-of-the-art, fully flexible body shop, which allows Ford to build multiple models on the same assembly line, as well as a 3-wet paint process, dirt detection and laser brazing.

Located 30 minutes south of Detroit, the 27-year-old Flat Rock facility also produces the Ford Fusion on a 3,000-employee-strong, 2-shift schedule.

jamend@wardsauto.com