2015 Ford Mustang Assembly
A member of UAW Local 3000 and an employee of Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan assembles the 2015 Ford Mustang Thursday, when the company began production of the highly anticipated sixth-generation muscle car. Ford Motor Co.

For years Europeans have been able to buy local versions of most Ford sedans, like the Fusion, C-Max and Focus. Now, Ford is about to unleash its iconic pony car on the other side of the Atlantic. And already buyers there, mostly in the U.K., are eager to get their hands on the 2015 Ford Mustang, which for the first time is available with right-side steering.

Ford is betting that Mustang, introduced at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and named after a World War II fighter jet, has enough global recognition to justify the expense and effort in introducing the car to showrooms in 120 countries before the end of the year. If European demand is any indication, it's a good bet. Ford said 500 pre-orders were offered online during the 2014 Champions League Final soccer tournament back in March; they were snatched up in less than a minute from buyers in 20 European countries. A fourth of them were in the U.K.

On Thursday morning, workers at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant began producing the 2015 Ford Mustang ahead its global debut, which comes half a century after its U.S. launch.

“Mustang is and will continue to be an automotive icon,” Joseph R. Hinrichs, the president of the Americas unit of the Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) said in a statement.

The base 2015 Mustang comes with a 3.7 liter V6 engine or the more fuel-efficient 2.3 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Each churns out 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. The smaller engine should attract fuel-conscious buyers in Europe where the price of gasoline is much higher then it is in the U.S. The 2015 Ford Mustang also comes with a beefed-up 5.0 liter V8 with 435 pound-feet of torque for the less scrupulous.

“What an honor it is for the hardworking and dedicated UAW Local 3000 workers of Flat Rock Assembly Plant to build the next-generation Mustang,” WDIV-TV quoted James Settles Jr., a United Auto Workers vice president as saying Thursday morning. “I don’t think there is any place in the world where this vehicle is not known. To build it right here in Michigan is something to be proud of.”

Ford invested $555 million at Flat Rock to produce Mustangs and Fusion sedans. The company said on its website it employs 4,600 workers at the 2.9-million-sqare-foot facility founded in 1987 by the Mazda Motor Manufacturing USA unit of the Mazda Motor Corp. (TYO:7261). The Mazda MX-6 was the first car made at the site. Ford bought a 50 percent share of the plant in 1992 to make the Mercury Cougar and Ford Probe. In 2012, Ford took full control of the facility after the 20-year joint venture ended.

The Mustang has been produced at Flat Rock since 2004. Last year, Ford’s Mustang production passed the 1 million-unit milestone.