Nearly two years ago, Ford Motor Company announced that it would invest $11 billion by 2022 in vehicle electrification, diverting money away from sedans and internal combustion engine development in favor of capital investment in trucks as well as electric and hybrid vehicles.
Shortly after that, Ford also said it would stop building all passenger cars for the North American market, cutting the Fusion, Focus and Fiesta while leaving only the Mustang in production and allowing the company to focus instead on SUVs and crossover vehicles.
Ford’s strategy to eschew major segments in the vehicle market is a risky one, and time will tell whether it will prove to be the right strategic move. Nevertheless, on Sunday evening in Los Angeles, the world saw the first glimpse of the fruits of Ford’s EV investment strategy, and it appears the automaker is putting their best foot forward.
In a glitzy reveal, recruiting the star power of Idris Elba on stage with Bill Ford, Jr. and live streaming on Twitter, Ford took the covers off the Mach-E electric SUV—a model the company appears sufficiently confident is worthy to wear the fabled Mustang badge.
Unlike Ford’s first foray into pure-play electric vehicles (EVs), the Focus electric - a rather staid hatchback with limited range - the blue oval appears to be going big with the Mach-E.
Ford says we can expect around a 300-mile range for the rear wheel drive version of the Mach-E, and for the performance GT version, 60 mph will arrive impressively quickly in the mid-three second range. That’s muscle car performance justifying its “pony car” credentials, except of course doing it all silently!
With this new vehicle, Ford has undoubtedly positioned itself to squarely take on Tesla’s forthcoming crossover, the Model Y and the two vehicles will likely hit the market at a similar time in late 2020. Ford’s performance figures for the Mach-E in terms of range and acceleration are certainly in Tesla territory and pricing starting in the mid-$40K range are likely to be competitive with the Tesla Model Y. Early adopters, however, won’t be getting the base model, and according to Ford’s website, early edition models of the Mach-E will set you back $59,900 (though the U.S. federal electric vehicle tax credit of $7,500 will be available).
It has to be said, Ford has not been at all shy to borrow from Tesla in terms of design cues while aligning the Mach-E to provide comparable features. Taking a look at the dashboard, for example, like all Teslas, the Mach-E comes with a giant center screen which controls pretty much everything from entertainment to climate control. Also, as with Tesla’s front luggage compartment which they call the “frunk,” Ford too, serves up a front luggage compartment where the engine would be in a conventional vehicle.
Ford also promises wireless vehicle software updates a la Tesla, and hands-free steering capabilities through Ford’s Co-Pilot360 system, which is akin to Tesla’s autopilot. All of which begs the question that were it not for Tesla, would all of these attributes have emerged on their own from Detroit? Maybe not, but while Tesla has set the industry standard for premium EVs, Ford appears to have stepped up in providing what buyers in this segment have come to expect.
Ford adds its own flavor, too; however, the Mach-E unmistakably draws upon design cues from the company’s own Mustang heritage. Despite coming in an SUV package, its lineage is revealed in design touches from the vertical array of the rear lights to the Mustang logo on the faux front grille. During the reveal, Bill Ford, Jr. also asserted the vehicle had to drive and handle like a performance vehicle to be worthy of wearing the Mustang badge; video footage suggests that’s been achieved, but time will tell whether it’s a car that will excite drivers when they have a chance to test it.
Performance aside, the Mach-E, of course, has to be a practical vehicle in the real world. Range anxiety is increasingly a thing of the past as the next generation of EVs like the Mach-E get up to 300 miles range. But for those longer road trips, an accessible charging network remains hugely important. Unlike Tesla, which built its own Supercharger network, Ford has instead partnered with 3rd party charging networks and through Ford’s cloud-connected FordPass system, the company says drivers will have access to 12,000 - and growing - charging locations throughout the United States. For drivers in a hurry, when connected to a DC fast charger, the Mach-E will get a range boost of 47 miles in 10 minutes, and when you’re at home, Ford says it will provide a home charging system for free.
Not all purists will appreciate the iconic Mustang brand being incarnated as an electric-powered SUV, but to be wedded to the past is to run the risk of becoming irrelevant. The Mach-E is a bold step forward in terms of Ford’s EV offering, and with a promised roll-out of 40 electrified Ford vehicles to come, it seems the company is kicking off proceedings confidently.
Image credit: Ford Motor Co.
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.