In 2019, foundations are being shook, and automobiles can identify as anything they want to be. For example, the Toyota Camry is identifying itself as a sports car, CVTs now have artificial “shift points,” and the all-electric Mach-E Ford crossover SUV that will debut on November 17 will identify as a Mustang. Moreover, the Mustang brand itself will begin its expansion as its own brand with what can only be described as a complete and total polar opposite body style from the muscle car/pony car that cemented its legacy as an American icon in the first place. It’s 2019, and the Mustang Mach-E is absolutely a sign of the times.
In some ways, this strategy feels like a prank that’s gone way too far. In other ways, it could be just what is necessary for the 116-year-old American automaker as it enters another decade.
The Mustang Mach E could be Ford’s “Cayenne Moment,” where the automotive world was either disgusted or scoffed at the idea of a Porsche SUV based on general principle back in 2002. Fast forward nearly 20 years, and not only has the Cayenne become a hit, but Porsche has launched another sporty SUV below it called the Macan. More to the point, many critics from the outside and executives from the inside give credence to these unconventional vehicles for lining the coffers enough to where incredible supercars and hypercars can exist, like the 918 from 2013-2015.
However, there’s a fine line between ingenuity, and tacky gimmickry. The Mustang Mach-E currently shows signs of both. There is great irony in leveraging a name that represents the total opposite of an EV (Mustang) and using its performance cachet to prop up an electric SUV. Again, a sign of the times. And, wasn’t the 760 horsepower Mustang Shelby GT500 media drive just a few weeks ago? Now everybody is expected to pivot, and paint the Mach-E – which was almost called the Mach 1 – in the same light? The same brand of vehicle? Talk about a leap. The target customer might as well be a post-irony Ford Edge ST buyer that read a Greta Thunberg post once.
Moreover, customers can reserve their spot in line for the Mustang Mach-E by making a $500 refundable reservation deposit – just like Tesla does. Wall Street likes Tesla.
Concerns aside, the 2021 Mustang Mach E, which debuts this weekend, is nevertheless an electric vehicle that’s finally in the right segment, and not some kind of dinky econo-hatch penalty box that appeals only to urban dwellers who soon realize that there’s nowhere to conveniently charge their street-parked Fiat 500e. The fact that its built up as a midsize crossover performance SUV is the biggest asset of the Mustang Mach-E, without question. If the performance numbers are favorable (which they likely will be), and if the price is right (which it likely will be), then we could see a real takeoff. A real Cayenne Moment for Ford.
It’s best of luck to all Mach-E customers who will try to explain to the Shelby GT500 owner down the street that the zero-emissions crossover in their driveway is also, somehow, a Mustang.