By Mike Colias
LOS ANGELES -- Ford Motor Co. is counting on the Mustang name --
a badge long worn by its powerful, muscle car -- to spark the auto
maker's transition to an electric future.
Ford is expanding the Mustang nameplate beyond its traditional
two-door sports car for the first time in the vehicle's 55-year
history, a bid to keep the famed insignia relevant at a time when
interest in performance vehicles in the U.S. is waning.
A new all-electric SUV, unveiled by executives at an event in
Los Angeles Sunday, will be called the Mustang Mach-E and wear the
galloping pony logo.
The company is betting use of the popular Mustang name, combined
with an SUV design that mimics the sports car's sleek profile, will
help it attract new buyers to the Ford brand. Analysts say it could
bring both fresh interest and backlash from purists, and risks
diluting a nameplate that has cultivated a loyal following for more
than half a century.
Introduced in the mid-1960s, the Mustang was one of the original
pony cars -- loud, fast, two-door sports cars -- that became a
fixture of American culture. The Mustang has appeared in more than
500 movies, including an iconic chase scene in the 1968 movie
"Bullitt" with actor Steve McQueen at the wheel.
"Mustang is what people think about us around the world," said
Jim Farley, Ford's president of new business, technology and
strategy. He said executives had many debates about "what's the
right thing to do here."
The decision to name the new SUV a Mustang also reflects a
confluence of trends buffeting the global car business. Stricter
tailpipe-emissions rules globally are prodding car companies to
develop electric cars. And the success of electric-car specialist
Tesla Inc. has pushed auto makers to offer their own versions with
eye-catching looks and longer battery life, rather than small cars
with staid designs that traditional car makers have tried for a
decade, analysts say.
Meanwhile, a dramatic shift in consumer preference for SUVs,
especially in the U.S., shows no sign of slowing. Ford already is
phasing out the Fusion family car and other slow-selling sedans
from showrooms, which eventually will leave the traditional Mustang
as the sole car in its U.S. lineup.
Ford made the decision to call the new SUV a Mustang midway
through its development. About a year ago, top executives huddled
with engineers and designers at the company's Dearborn, Mich.,
headquarters, in a 12th-floor conference room filled with white
boards and vehicle sketches, said Mr. Farley, who has owned eight
Bill Ford, the company's executive chairman and great-grandson
of founder Henry Ford, was at first apprehensive about using the
"I was actually pretty skeptical. You don't mess with an icon,"
Mr. Ford said at the event Sunday. But he said the SUV should
overcome the stigma that electric cars aren't fun to drive.
"The issue to date has always been, if you wanted performance
you had to give up the green aspects," he said. "This technology
has finally gotten to a place where you can actually have
Ford executives declined to say whether the Mustang name would
expand to more models in the future.
The new Mach-E, scheduled to go on sale late next year, is
expected to start at around $44,000 and offer at least 230 miles in
travel range off a single battery charge. While the Mustang coupe
is built in Michigan, this new SUV will be produced at a Ford
assembly plant in Mexico, the company has said.
Mustang's global sales have been sliding, despite a successful
expansion into Europe, China and other overseas markets in recent
years. Sales in the U.S. have fallen every year since 2015, the
last time Ford released a redesigned version of the car, according
to research firm LMC Automotive.
Other sports-car brands are also introducing electric vehicles.
Porsche AG, for instance, plans to launch its first battery-powered
car, the $104,000 Taycan, next year.
That Ford is making the transition on both fronts -- electric
and SUV -- in a big wager on one of its most recognizable
nameplates, said Chantel Lenard, a former Ford marketing executive
who teaches at the University of Michigan's business school.
"The Mustang name gives you instant recognition. It's a shortcut
in the consumer's mind that the vehicle represents sportiness and
heritage and rebellion," Ms. Lenard said. "One risk is that those
characteristics aren't relevant to the new consumers you're trying
Chris Lemley, a Ford dealer in the Boston area, said the move
could prove controversial with some die-hard fans. But he supports
the idea because it signals confidence in a new technology that
customers might be skeptical of.
Ford plans to build about 50,000 Mach-Es in the first year of
production for sale in the U.S. and Europe, product chief Hau
Thai-Tang said in an interview. That would be more than twice the
current production rate of General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Bolt
electric , but less than a quarter of Tesla's Model 3, its
Analysts say the U.S. sports-car market has been fading for some
time with rising vehicle prices putting models out of reach of
would-be buyers and younger drivers showing less enthusiasm for
growling engines and raw power.
Market share for performance models in the U.S. sank to 2.3%
this year, from 3.5% five years ago, the biggest drop among six
dominant body styles tracked by LMC.
The Mustang Mach-E is among the first mass-market models to take
on Tesla with a combination of long battery range, sporty design
and performance driving at a reasonable price, said Jim Sanfilippo,
a California-based automotive-marketing consultant.
"It will get a lot of attention. But it also raises the
expectations for what this car has to be," Mr. Sanfilippo said.
Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 18, 2019 07:40 ET (12:40 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Ford Motor (NYSE:F)
Historical Stock Chart
From Sep 2020 to Oct 2020
Ford Motor (NYSE:F)
Historical Stock Chart
From Oct 2019 to Oct 2020