Ford Motor Company detonated an epochal explosive in the form of an electrified Mustang SUV on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show last night. The move marked an industry altering turning point as auto makers commence the process of electrifying their internal combustion engine line-ups in anticipation of a global market embracing electrification.
The move came three days ahead of a rumored electrified pickup truck announcement expected from Tesla Motors and follows by one year Rivian’s announcement of plans for its own electrified pickup truck. Of course, the significance of a rush to electrify pickup trucks cannot be lost on Ford, which makes the F-150 – the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the U.S. for the past 36 years.
Ford sells nearly a million F Series pickup trucks every year and has tipped its plans for a full electric version sometime in late 2020 or early 2021. That is about the same timing that Rivian (in which Ford is an investor) has discussed for its own EV pickup – i.e. end of 2020. For its part General Motors asserted that it is in the process of refitting its Hamtramck plant to make electric pickup trucks – though a specific timeframe for delivery is unclear.
The electric Mustang Mach-E likely represents the first domino to fall in a sweeping shift in sports car propulsion of domestic makes from internal combustion to EV tech. Ford’s introduction of an electric Mustang SUV likely points to the eventual arrival of Cadillac and Corvette equivalents and, perhaps further down the road, an EV Camaro and EV FCA Challenger.
With sales of sedans and sports cars in decline the shift to SUV form factors with EV propulsion suddenly seems like a no-brainer. But the boldness and courage required by Ford to make this move ought not to be underestimated.
Ford (with the Focus) and GM (with the Volt and Bolt) have flirted with EVs in the past, but these expensive endeavors have failed to fire up consumers to the point of putting up impressive sales figures. These models had the trappings of “regulatory” offerings intended to fulfill California zero emission requirements or Federal Corporate Average Fleet Efficiency (CAFÉ) standards. Dealers were unenthusiastic about these early EV models and advertising dollars in support of the effort were scarce.
The launch of the Mustang Mach-E moves Ford’s EV effort to center stage and the announcement, coming at the L.A. Auto Show with a significant dealer audience in attendance, marks a pivotal moment for the industry. The iconic Mustang will now stand as the fulcrum of a committed EV marketing effort that will reshape Ford’s relationship with its customers, its dealers, and its suppliers.
Ford dealers will now be on the front lines of the new vehicle resale proposition of marketing both ICE and EV vehicles on the same showroom floor. The software and connectivity elements of the Mach-E with over the air software updates and an exceptionally nimble infotainment system will present a substantial contrast to existing in-vehicle systems – at least until elements of the Mach E can be extended across the other vehicles in the Ford line up.
As important as the shift of domestic marques from ICE to EV will be as it unfolds, the shift of the pickup sector will be even more powerful and momentous. The vehicle volumes and profits at stake in the pickup sector are more critical to the automakers involved – GM, Ford and FCA – and the change in performance characteristics and expectations will require different means of communication.
At last week’s Fleet Forward event, put on by Bobit Media, an industry analyst from Vincentric noted the total cost of ownership advantage of high-mileage EVs. A Cox Automotive executive, also speaking at Fleet Forward, noted the growing number of EVs making their way to the market … and with greater range. (The Mustang Mach-E has a 300-mile range, according to Ford.)
SOURCE: Cox Automotive
Shifting sports cars to EV propulsion is an almost pure enhancement – if you ignore the loss of soothing engine growls and roars. Shifting pickups along the same path may require some demonstration and convincing – though Ford has already taken the first steps in this direction with its stunt of towing a railroad train with an EV propelled F Series truck earlier this year.
The transformative impact of the Mustang Mach-E launch cannot have been lost on attendees of last night’s press event or Ford dealers or Ford competitors. Along with the Mach E comes a comprehensive software update solution, a new in-house developed infotainment user interface (dubbed “Menlo”), smartphone-based keyless vehicle access via the FordPass app, and a global fast/and regular speed charging network – in conjunction with multiple partners including Shell’s Greenlots.
It’s a new day for Ford, a rebirth for the Mustang, and a turning point for the industry. It will be interesting to see what impact electrified pickups will have following the arrival of a Mustang rendered silent but deadly with its electrified powertrain.