The Ford Mustang is one of the most iconic cars ever made. It's also about as classic a muscle car as there is, which seems ironic given the announcement that Ford is adding an all-electric SUV known as the Mach-E to the Mustang lineup. The Mach-E is a fascinating exercise both in branding and in creating an electric car that can compete with the current industry leader, Tesla.

In some ways, it's perfect. Mustangs (the horses) are descended from domesticated breeds brought by the Spanish. Commonly thought of as wild horses, they're actually feral, which is kind of appropriate here. No one has ever thought of the Mustang (the car) as domesticated, but the new version is a combination of what has become the most domesticated of vehicles (an SUV), the most well-known muscle car, and something that most people still see as from the future (EVs). It also might be the best challenger to Tesla's dominance in electric vehicles. 

To be fair, Tesla has a pretty substantial head start. The company not only proved electric vehicles were a viable product (though it hasn't had much luck making money off of them), but it already makes cars that do everything the Mustang can do and more.

The all-wheel-drive version of the Mustang will have 332 horsepower, and a rear-wheel-drive will have up to 300 miles of range. Future versions, including a GT Performance trim that Ford plans to launch in 2021, will have 459 horsepower and run 0 to 60 mph in the "mid-three seconds" according to the company. It'll also charge from 10 percent to 80 percent in 38 minutes on a 150 kW DC fast-charging station. 

Yes, the Tesla Model X already beats all of those benchmarks. That SUV is capable of 328 miles of range, and the performance version can go 0 to 60 mph in less than three seconds. Of course, that'll cost you $30K more. But you do get the fancy X-wing rear doors, so that's something.

But what Ford did is something impressive. 

First of all, it's, well, a Ford. That might not seem like it matters, but it does. Especially across the Midwest and South, where most of the cars in this country are made. There are a lot of people who might be inclined to buy an EV, but haven't because Teslas have a reputation. For many people, they're expensive and a bit snooty. And they come from California. 

I mean, all of those things are true of other brands, too, like Apple for example. But that's why Apple was mostly a niche player until the iPhone came along.

But this is a Ford. And it's a Mustang! There isn't anything snooty about a Mustang. It's a brand that is about as salt of the earth as it gets. It stands for one thing: pure performance without pretense. It's the perfect anti-Tesla, while at the same time, being everything a Tesla for the masses could be.

And whether you think a Mustang SUV is brilliant or bizarre, there's a good reason Ford decided to make its first mass-market fully electric vehicle a part of that heritage, despite the fact that it hasn't launched a new vehicle in the line in 40 years. The Mustang brand creates an expectation around performance. It symbolizes something in the mind of a consumer that this isn't some kind of electric vehicle just for the sake of saying you're making one.

It also says that Ford is serious about doing what almost no one else has: Producing an electric vehicle worthy of its competition.

Published on: Nov 18, 2019
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