Whatever you think of the new Ford Mustang Mach-E, it’s obviously a big departure from anything ever sold with a galloping pony in the grille. I’ve only seen a handful in the wild so far and I don’t feel like my opinion on them is completely settled. Many peoples’ are, for better or worse, and I thought I’d share an amusing episode that brings the controversy to life.
My daughter is 8 and being my kid, she’s relatively car-aware. She has a demonstrated ability to identify a Mustang from any generation, though she’s never been put to the test on the 71-73 (which might stump her) or Mustang II (which I think she would get). Daddy drives a 2011, so naturally that was the first car she could ID on the road from around the age of 3. She’s a big ‘Stang fan.
I was driving on the freeway with her one day when she asks me, “What’s that car?” It was a Mach-E, which she had never seen before and I had never mentioned it in her presence in any context. When I told her it was a new Mustang Mach-E, she immediately says, “That Mustang looks bad!” Unfortunately for Ford, she didn’t mean it in the ironic bad is cool sense, but the traditional dictionary meaning. I just laughed.
This photo was staged several days later when I spotted this Mach-E parked. Here’s what I think happened in her mind. She saw the back of the car with its triple taillights and prancing horse logo, which automatically activated Mustang Identification Mode in her brain, but the unfamiliar shape and extra set of doors created cognitive dissonance. When it was confirmed to her that it actually was a Mustang, her 8-year-old naturally-judgmental disposition immediately pronounced an opinion since it didn’t fit her idea of what a Mustang should look like.
I think this is what goes on in many of our heads, except instead of 5 years of experience, there is up to 57 years of Mustang experience to base a prejudice on.
When I took her over to look at this shiny new car, I asked her if she liked it. “No.” I explained that instead of using gasoline it was plugged in to electricity to run on. The significance of that seemed to go over her head, as she was distinctly unimpressed.
Earlier this year, Jim Klein wrote up an excellent in-depth review for Curbside Classic. It drew 140 comments (average article gets 30-40), so it’s fair to say the car attracts opinions if not always love. I left a comment and I still feel about the same. It seems like a well designed vehicle and it’s pretty good looking, with the unavoidable qualifiers: for an EV and for a SUV-style vehicle. I understand the potential marketing value of using the Mustang identity and agree that a sporty electric car seems like a worthwhile market niche, because in many minds alternative fuel vehicles look more like this:
Nerdsville! I’ll grant the Mach-E is at least better looking than the Honda Clarity. Personally as a longtime Mustang fan, though, I’m just not sure I can buy into Ford expanding the Mustang line into models that bear little/no resemblance to the sporty/muscular coupes we love so well.
However, I know I’m not the typical car customer. Electric vehicles will need to spark passion in mainstream car buyers if they are ever to become naturally popular without depending on government subsidies or mandates. Tesla has demonstrated the potential for that, and they haven’t been eligible for federal tax credits under current law since the end of 2019 (though that may change soon, and CA and some other states offer incentives). Can the Mach-E and others duplicate that success?
Here’s how the Mach-E is doing so far, along with some other vehicles for EV and general market context. 2021 U.S. sales Jan-Sept:
Ford Mustang Mach-E – 18,855
Tesla Model Y – 121,229 (est.)
Tesla Model 3 – 87,910 (est.)
Volkswagen ID.4 – 12,279 (new BEV SUV on sale since March)
Hyundai Ioniq – 15,556 (not broken down by hybrid vs. BEV)
Nissan Leaf – 10,074
Chevrolet Bolt – 24,803
Ford Mustang – 41,065 (You know, the real one:)
Ford Escape – 111,791
Ford Bronco Sport – 81,204
Toyota Rav 4 – 313,447 (top Compact SUV and overall top non-Pickup)
Photographed in Houston, TX October 21, 2021. My apologies to any Clarity owners, I use the term nerds in the most respectful and loving sense possible. Sales figures taken from CarSalesBase.com.