With this battery-powered utility vehicle, Ford is aiming to deliver a product that hits the EV market's sweet spot. Stylish, powerful and spacious inside, the Mustang Mach-E will also offer loads of technology, have an impressive driving range and deliver all that at a price that doesn't require robbing a bank to afford. But this wasn't always the plan.
Several years ago, the project started as "another compliance play," explained Jason Castriota, brand director for BEVs at Ford, speaking at a backgrounder event in Michigan earlier this month. "But we knew this wasn't compelling," he added, especially after watching other automakers struggle.
The uninspired electric cars offered by rival companies have been as unprofitable as they are dorky-looking. Ford's original plan to produce another forgettable, mass-market, battery-powered hatchback was quickly shelved, though perhaps not soon enough.
Castriota said Jim Farley, Ford's president of new businesses, technology and strategy, saw what they were doing and rebooted the entire program. Changing horses midstream -- yes, pun intended -- they decided to tap into the equity of Ford's most iconic products. "We need a new hero," Castriota said. And to cut through all the noise and clutter out there, "It's got to be Mustang." With more than 10 million sold over the last 55 years, there isn't a more iconic Ford around, save, perhaps, for the F-150, which will soon get its own electric variant.
"The day we decided this would be Mustang-inspired … everybody lit up," Darren Palmer, Ford's global head of product development for BEVs, said while presenting at the backgrounder. To foal this filly, engineers had to create an all-new, dedicated electric-vehicle architecture.
The Mach-E also had to be wrapped in a design that does justice to the Mustang's heritage. To deliver, its nose was lifted, and the A-pillars were pushed rearward. Designers moved the wheels toward each end of the body, added strong rear haunches and fitted it with iconic three-chamber taillights, all in a bid to create a stylish, emotional product, one that just happens to be electric.
But make sure you know this is an SUV of the future, it's also got plenty of technology, not just retro-inspired styling. One of the first things people will notice, or perhaps not notice, is that the Mach-E lacks traditional door handles. Instead, you use electrically operated push buttons to get in. Special activators pop the doors open about 4 inches and then you can grab a handle hidden along the lip. All this supposedly improves aerodynamics and gives the vehicle a futuristic look, but it seems like a lot of cost and complexity for potentially very little benefit.