Published on January 3rd, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan
January 3rd, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
I get it — change is hard. It’s difficult, awkward, and perhaps even annoying or frustrating to see something we love get changed. The good news about the pushback from Ford/Mustang fans regarding the Ford Mustang Mach-E: we’ve seen this before with Porsche and BMW, and Porsche and BMW not only survived by thrived.
“The X5 isn’t a real BMW.”
“The Cayenne isn’t a real Porsche.”
“This will ruin the company.”
“How ugly!” (I think fugly wasn’t yet a word.)
“What were they thinking?”
Yes, some critics even considered these vehicles to be signs of the impending downfall of these iconic brands.
What were Porsche and BMW doing? Well, they were simply falling in line with the trends of the market — people wanted bigger vehicles. Soccer moms wanted to sit up higher. Boomers were getting older and wanted more space for all their stuff.
We know how things turned out. As one headline put it, “Porsche’s Best-Selling Models In 2018 Were By Far Its SUVs.” The BMW X3 and X5 have become BMW’s top sellers.
Ford already knows that its customers prefer the bigger crossover and SUV classes, which is why it decided to ditch sedans. It kept the Mustang going because it’s got enormous brand recognition and is a pretty good selling car. However, Ford knows which way the market’s been headed for years, and it has a hunch that now is a good time for the Mustang brand to pivot if it wants to remain relevant in the coming decade.
The electric transition presented the perfect opportunity for Ford. Not only does the company need to change anyway, but a good electric powertrain allows Ford to make a crossover Mustang that drives like a sports car or traditional muscle car. And that’s essentially how the Mustang Mach-E drives, according to Jennifer Sensiba’s review from being in the vehicle for an initial test.
Ford was faced with a unique opportunity and seized the day. Yes, the company has to sit through the show as certain fans vent about their beloved Mustang brand getting “ruined” by a crossover-vehicle ugly duckling. In time, consumers will realize it’s a swan and is far better than any Mustang before it. In time, I think the Mustang Mach-E will prove to be a big hit. It should. Only prejudice is standing in the way at this point. Oh, prejudice and production capacity, but I’m hopeful Ford will eventually be able to produce and sell a lot of these. The head honchos at the company seem to want to do so.
To close, perhaps I should address the EV elephant in the room. Some people claim that the Mustang Mach-E won’t have demand because it isn’t as good as a Tesla in certain ways. I have a couple of issues with that logic. First of all, approximately 99% of the market needs to electrify, and Tesla isn’t going to take over the whole market by itself. Other electric vehicles competitive in their classes will find sales. Many vehicle sales come down to looks, loyalty to a certain brand, identity, and marketing. Many Ford shoppers will consider a Mustang Mach-E who would never set foot in a Tesla. Get them on a test drive and the Mach-E should be an easy sale.
In Europe, where the EV market is more mature and there’s much more genuine variety of models, electric Tesla “competitors” see decent sales. In fact, some competitors of the Model S and Model X beat them in major European markets. If Ford tries, the Mustang Mach-E should be a Tesla ally. It should help overall to raise EV awareness, and it should benefit from higher EV awareness stimulated by Tesla. There’s plenty of room for an electric vehicle to both not be a Tesla killa and be a popular model. I think the Mustang Mach-E is primed to take sales from the Ford Escape and even Ford Edge.
And there’s every indication that Ford is trying, since it swallowed a lot of pride and followed Tesla’s example in numerous ways in order to make sure to design and build something that would be appreciated by consumers. Ford changed up the design in a couple of ways that move away from the minimalism I love about our Tesla Model 3, but even these changes imply that Ford’s been watching Tesla closely, as they appear to be responses to common criticisms of the Model 3. There’s an extra speedometer display behind the steering wheel, for example, recognizing that many people have been concerned that the Model 3’s touchscreen is too out of sight. (I don’t find that to be a problem, but I also assume that concern is something that drivers some consumers away from the Model 3.) There’s also a knob on the bottom of the main touchscreen for ease of use for music volume, etc. I think concerns about not having more knobs and buttons have been overblown, and I think Tesla’s design will prove more popular and effective, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of consumers who will be happy to have something more tactile on the bottom of the touchscreen. Plus, the more important thing is to remember my initial point: it appears Ford watched over Tesla discussions closely in order to try to learn some top lessons, which implies to me that Ford is serious about this tech revolution.
Am I a typical Ford buyer and Mustang fanatic? Of course not, but I think that combining two magic formulas is a good approach that will generate long-term rewards for Ford. Buyers can get the comfy, easy-to-enter and easy-to-exit crossover body style they want with the new Mustang Mach-E, and they can also get the unmatched benefits of a fully electric powertrain. Perhaps the average Mustang fan — or at least the most vocal ones on social media — don’t yet know about the huge driver and passenger benefits of an electric powertrain. but they can learn. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but even old dogs got smartphones, flat-screen TVs, and tablets. Even old dogs and brand fanatics got crossover and SUV Porsches and BMWs.
And, seriously, in the coming years, who in their right mind would buy a non-electric crossover or SUV when they could buy a Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y, or some other well designed?
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