Opinion: to get Tesla fans to swap for a Ford Mustang requires a miracle
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Is this the most controversial Ford in a generation? Certainly, the Mustang Mach-E has already generated no end of online muttering among the petrolhead community. For obvious reasons, you might say.
After all, the Mustang name is beloved, emotive and, of course, heavily associated with fuel-guzzling, V8-engined muscle cars. Applying it to a four-door electric SUV is a bold move from Ford.
Indeed, rumour has it that there was a great deal of hand-wringing within the company as to whether the new car should carry Mustang branding at all, or whether it should simply be called the ‘Ford Mach-E’, and marketed as an electric SUV heavily inspired by the Mustang.
But the Mustang Mach-E it is. And it’s in for a penny, in for a pound, for while the car is officially branded a Ford, and listed on Ford’s website as one of its models, you won’t find a single blue oval badge on the car’s exterior; instead, galloping horses grace its nose and tail, just as they do on its namesake.
That should give you a clue as to why Ford has chosen the route it has. Quite simply, it has to try something different if it’s to appeal to the type of buyer in the market for a new, electric-powered SUV.
After all, the Mach-E will compete head-on with Volvo’s electric XC40 P8 Recharge. And the fully-loaded First Edition model will cost just a couple of grand less than the entry-level Jaguar I-Pace.
Many of those cars’ potential buyers, looking for a premium electric car with an aspirational badge of which they can be proud, might be deterred by the humble blue oval.
But most squarely in the Mustang Mach-E’s sights will likely be electric-only start-up (or should that read upstart?) Tesla.
Whether Tesla is itself a premium brand or not is the subject of much debate. But without doubt, it appeals to buyers across the class, age and wealth spectra in a way few modern car brands can. And while it is still a young company, its cars have become electric car benchmarks in their respective sectors.
Its biggest advantage over the ‘legacy’ car makers it aims to disrupt, however, is a devoted band of acolytes who live and breathe Tesla. These are fanatics with the sort of dedication most other manufacturers can only dream of. Some have even gone as far as having the Tesla logo tattooed on themselves.
Of course, Ford has its fans too, and in particular, a fair proportion of Mustang devotees will have pony logo tattoos. The trouble for Ford is that the cars they fell in love with are the very opposite of the Mach-E: low, loud and proud coupés and convertibles that go fast and make a lot of noise, at their best with a V8 in the front and a fug of gasoline emanating from their massive tailpipes. To turn these fans on to the Mach-E, Ford is going to have to pull off some kind of PR miracle
To those not steeped in American muscle car culture, however, which includes most of us outside the USA, the Mustang branding might just work. The name, with connotations of speed, power and Stateside glamour, might not quite have Tesla’s Apple-esque pull. But it will at least resonate in a way that a badge you’d also find on a diesel Focus simply can’t.
Of course, branding is one thing. But to succeed, Ford will need a product that can mix it with Tesla’s finest, too. To be precise, in this instance, that means the Model Y.
Little is known about Tesla’s mid-size SUV as yet, and it’s a long way off arriving in the UK, so comparing the two cars is, for now, rather tricky.
However, an educated guess puts the Model Y’s price at somewhere around £42,000 when it eventually lands here – a figure the Mach-E conspicuously undercuts – and the two models’ electric ranges will, as near as makes no difference, be identical.
Be in no doubt, then: of all the cars Ford wants the Mach-E to take on, the Model Y is at the top of the list.
Using a brand that means so much to so many of its fans in this way is a big gamble for Ford. But if it pays off, it gives the company a way to steal customers from Tesla who wouldn’t otherwise pay it a second glance.
And if that happens, it isn’t hard to imagine the Mustang brand being fully broken out in its own right one day, in much the same way as Ford’s arch-rival General Motors did with Corvette. That would give Ford the space to create a range of semi-premium, performance-oriented, Mustang-badged electric and electrified models that could really give Tesla, as well as its more mainstream rivals, something to think about.
It isn’t hard to see where Ford is picking its next fight, then. This year’s Christmas blockbuster, Le Mans ’66, brings to life the time it took on Ferrari at the great French 24-hour race in the 1960s; but in the 2020s, Ford will be going toe-to-toe with a rather different foe.
This time, though, it isn’t the underdog – and this time there’s much more riding on the outcome than simply pride.
- Telegraph UK
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