Ford claims its Mustang has been the best-selling sports car in the US over the last 50 years, and now, thanks to exports, is the most popular sports car in the world.

It cites its own analysis of IHS Market new vehicle registration data in the sports car segment.

Of course, the automaker for decades hobbled the model's international prospects by not offering factory right hand drive, though that changed with the latest generation.

Ford claims Mustang expanded its sales lead in 2016 as the world's best selling sports car with more than 150,000 Mustangs sold, citing the IHS Market new vehicle registration data. Overall global sales increased 6% over 2015, fuelled by international market growth up 101% with almost 45,000 sold outside the US.

There were "big sales gains" in Germany and China, as well as the car's introduction to smaller nations such as New Caledonia, Gibraltar and Bonaire.

Since launching in China in 2015, Mustang has become the best-selling sports car there, Ford said. Sales in 2016 were up 74% over 2015.

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By GlobalData

Mark Schaller, Ford's Mustang marketing manager, said: "We continue to make it available in new markets and drivers in those markets continue to respond with resounding approval."

Ford decided in 2015 it would sell the iconic model worldwide and added factory right hand drive.

Over 395,000 sixth-generation Mustangs have been produced at Flat Rock since 2015 and of that, 98,000 have been exported. From 2015 to 2016, the percentage of exports doubled to 17.5% and the company expects export growth to continue, reaching 30% for the 2017 model year.

Mustang is now available in 140 countries across all continents other than Antarctica. This year, availability of the 2018 model will expand to six new countries, including Brazil, the Palau Islands and the Ivory Coast, with three more markets yet to be announced.

The 2018 model will have new front and rear design, more advanced technology, such as an optional, 12-inch, all digital instrument panel, and the availability of improved performance features such as a new 10-speed automatic transmission, MagneRide damping system and new active valve performance exhaust system.