Ford Mustang Mach-E: about that name…. [w/poll]

For a while, it’s been a public secret that Ford has been working on a ‘Mustang-inspired’ SUV, but it wasn’t until last week that it became clear they were actually going to use the Mustang name on that vehicle as well. I think that may prove to be a mistake.

Using the iconic Mustang name on anything but an all-American muscle car with two doors, a big engine and rear-wheel drive is a risky bet and they should ensure the vehicle is worthy of that name. And looking at the spec sheet and the first pictures of the new electric crossover, I have no doubt that the Mustang Mach-E is an excellent vehicle, but it’s going to take something very special to live up to the name they gave it.

Considering this will be a completely new vehicle in an entirely new segment for the brand, one in which they have some catching up to do, there’s been a lot of pressure on the development and marketing teams, so I understand very well that they took some inspiration from one of the brand’s biggest icons, both in terms of design and in terms of what it stands for. But it also had given them the opportunity, if the car were good enough, to create an all new icon, based on new values without needing to lean on an existing one. See how Tesla came out of nowhere to become the benchmark for every other automaker in terms of EVs, just by getting the product right (in terms of design and features) and clever market positioning. They didn’t need any heritage, they created their own.

But the Mustang has tons of heritage (from crazy burnouts to supercharged tarmac eaters, in addition to a respectable presence in racing).

If the Mach-E turns out to be a mediocre car, or even a good car that just fails to offer something to become really passionate about, Ford risks shaming the Mustang’s heritage and diluting its strong brand. On the other hand, if the Mach-E turns out to be everything we expect from a car bearing such an iconic name, it would have become a hit no matter the name, letting its qualities to the talking, and it wouldn’t have needed the controversial name. Ford Mach-E would have worked just as well. Again, see Tesla.

There are only two reasons why I think they chose to put the Mustang name (and Pony badge) on this car, and neither one of them gives me much hope. First, it could be that Ford is planning to majorly capitalize on the heritage and marketing value of the Mustang brand, launching a whole range of cars under this name, basically turning it into its own brand. That would be a huge risk, one that not only requires a strong and uncompromising leader who keeps the bean counters away and guards the core values of the brand at any cost. Considering Ford’s history of handling premium brands (remember the Premium Automotive Group with Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo and Aston Martin?????), and it being a large public company that has to be accountable for its return on investment every quarter instead of being able to play the long game, as required to do this right, I have my doubts they can pull this off. Again, if the product is right, the buyers will come anyway. And if the product is brilliant, a new heritage will be created for the future.
Another reason for using the Mustang name in the Mach-E is more short-term: to squeeze a few extra sales from this car, or perhaps to be able to raise the asking price, just because of its name. Now, I don’t think this was really their plan, because once again it’s a huge gamble to put such an iconic name at risk, but stranger things have happened. Besides, I really don’t think anyone is going to fall for this trick: the car will have to sell on merit, nobody will buy it only because it’s called Mustang.

Kriss’s counter view:

I have to say up front that the view I’m about to present is not really how I feel, but more of an attempt to think through why Ford did what it did. That said, I can imagine  what Ford was thinking – these days, many cars, both good and bad ones, sell on the strength of their brand alone. More pertinently for Ford, though, many good cars don’t achieve success because they don’t have the right brand name, especially more expensive ones. Think of cars like Citroen XM and C6, the recent Ford Edge and Mondeo, Mazda 6, Renault Talisman, Rover 75. And, let’s be honest, the Ford brand is not exactly very strong these days, and the company knows it…

Mustang, though, is different. It’s a car that is often referred to simply as “Mustang” rather than “Ford Mustang”, much like people often simply say “Corvette”, rather than “Chevrolet Corvette”. That is both a blessing for Ford, which can continue to make and sell high-end Mustangs, but also a curse, as the halo element of the Mustang coupe does not really seem to rub off on the rest of the Ford range. Which is where the Mach-E comes in – rather than hope that the model can become a strong name on its own, Ford decided to give it a fighting chance by severing it from the Ford name. The options then were two-fold: make up a new name or excavate a defunct one (both of which Ford has a bad record with: think Edsel, Mercur or Vignale), or use an existing one. “Mustang” is not a perfect fit for an EV crossover, by any means, but it sure is a stronger name than Ford. Add to that the fact that the latest Mustang coupe’s design cues translate surprisingly well into the Mach-E’s front and sides, if not rear, and you can see method in Ford’s madness. Will it work? I have no idea, but I admire Ford’s ballsiness for trying something different!

Bart’s counter view:

On a less cynic note: during the oil crisis of the 1970s, the Mustang II was a reaction to the new reality of fuel economy and emissions regulations, but at that time and years after, the car wasn’t considered to be a real Mustang. Looking back, some of us can see that it was a necessary adaptation to those challenging times and we should be thankful that it helped the Mustang name survive that period. Perhaps looking back again a few decades from now, our next generation will once again see that the automotive industry in the 2020s was changing quickly and the Mustang name had to evolve in order to survive and continue making toys for grown up boys as well. Think Porsche, whose profits from SUVs, although regarded in disdain by purists of the brand, allowed the company to continue development on the iconic 911.

What do you think about the Mustang Mach-E's name

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  1. This is a do-or-die moment for Ford. They’ve been hemorrhaging sales and market share for a decade now. If they can’t immediately turn it around, it won’t matter what they named this vehicle or what the Mustang name meant, because neither them nor anything else from Ford will exist anymore.

    They need this vehicle to sale, and they’re doing whatever they can to give it that chance.

    1. Nowhere near special enough to be a Mustang, given the history of Mustang as a foundation for ultra high performance (and not just acceleration)… This, frankly, looks like a vehicle that will have a hard time not being in direct competition, not just cross-segment x-shop, with mundane (albeit ev) SUVs.

      Then again, Ford did that with Bronco, and now stand apparently ready to reintroduce a supposedly “corrected” Bronco. So, who knows?

      My gut tells me that this is a mistake and may force the “real” ‘stang to become known as “Cobra”… Just sayin’…

    2. Wow! “Ford will never exist anymore”. I wonder how much thought you put in that conclusion?

  2. Desperate times call for desperate measures? The Puma logo now sticks on a cross-over, the iconic Mustang on a commute EV. Poor animals ….

  3. Use it or lose it. Ford already moved away from the Mustang heritage with its decision to abandon sedans. Where does the Mustang fit into that portfolio? So better to use it on a BEV crossover and hope that it flies rather than dives.

  4. Although I do not approve of the name, the name may generate more interest. For example, if you type “ford mustang” into your search engine, it might suggest “ford mustang mach e” or “ford mustang suv,” and you may become curious if you do not know what the car is yet. It is certainly a clever marketing idea, if not a great name.

  5. Nice article! Among other things, this is why I like CSB! Thanks guys 🙂
    The Mustang Mach-E could be the first car proving Ford is going to launch the Mustang brand. Finally I need to say, because they thought about it more than ten years ago. Of coure it’s marketing by the book. Like Kriss said, the name of a car is important. Maybe even more these days.
    What I think about the car? Hideous! I prefer the Tesla Model Y.

    1. Like an 100% electrified Porsche called …. TURBO! 😉 I wouldn’t call that ‘clever marketing’. iIs pure and simple lack of inspiration.

      1. Sure! It’s laziness by the book. You know that, I know that, but the vast majority of people will react like:
        “A Porsche Turbo?! That must be a great car!”
        Porsche battery electric vehicle doesn’t do the job I guess.
        I’ve said it many times before, customers like to be fooled, because they simply don’t care. So brands will keep fooling them, because it’s too easy. Who’s the lazy dumbass now?

  6. EVs were marketed to save the planet. Didn’t work. They are now about to me marketed on acceleration. Might work?

  7. In comparison with normal gas version of MUSTANG it looks molluscous. And worst of all it is really is. Sad that greatest gas and tire burner of all times – MUSTANG fall the victim of idiotic theories and became that s**t!!!

  8. One thing you have to remember is that only a small percentage of the worlds automotive market are automotive enthusiasts. Sure, quite a few people are upset about this. We all know that this adds huge amount of appeal to a product for the average customer, but what remains to be seen is whether mustang sales or the companies image as a whole will suffer. One things for sure, this one’ll be a success and maybe that’s what ford needs.

  9. A few years late for this opinion, but heres my 2 cents. Ford has brought back other names names from their past (Bronco, Maverick) but they refuse to name this new vehicle “Pinto”, which is a more apt and fitting name for this class of vehicle. Other than the misplaced fuel tank issue, other wise it was a decent vehicle in its time, seemingly. Did Ford leadership want to shy aware from Pinto that they wish to “black-sheep” the name, not to be mentioned in public settings, or outside of the family?

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