The Mustang Mach-E is seen by myself as the closest any automaker has come to making a name for themselves in this misidentified EV niche. Behind Tesla there is nobody. Sure, cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt have existed for years now but neither were able to capture an audiences passion like Tesla has. Taking that knowledge in, Ford entered the EV industry with their biggest name cosigning their recognition, the Mustang.
With the electric Mustang Mach-E, it seemed Ford attempted to stand out from the crowd of compliance cars, low volume vehicles, or generally lackluster EVs. Taking notes from the EV high king, it was made pretty clear their intent was to enter the market as an eventual leader in the space. Upon introduction, Ford’s new CEO, Jim Farley, was seemingly gunning and ready to take on Tesla. Most recently, the CEO confirmed the previously bold unsaid statement:
“The vehicle is a game changer. For me, the Mach-E is the first true competitor with Tesla. It’s got Detroit swagger. It’s a Mustang. Tesla is not a Mustang.”
Tesla’s cult-like following is what turned the now EV leader from nothing to something. Without the endless Thanksgiving table discussions surrounding our current vehicle landscape, without rabid enthusiasts voicing their dismay for the industries lack of innovation or care for our environment, Tesla would have involuntarily seceded a while back. In order to succeed, intentional or not, Tesla created a fanbase only they could cater too, something Ford has previously achieved with the Mustang brand.
This is where Ford, a company who’s never fallen behind, held their primary advantage. The Mustang namesake is not just a recognizable one, it’s the most beloved name in the world of car enthusiasts.
Understanding the flaws and finding potential is only half the battle.
With Tesla carving the path and proving potential in both the EV and technologically focuses automotive space, the next move was obvious, build something better. Putting all their resources together as one of the most powerful companies in history, something of substance was achieved. The upcoming electric Mustang Mach-E is currently the closest Tesla competitor, at least in my book.
Only creating a product is just phase one of many. Tesla leads not just in electric vehicles, but also autonomy and more importantly, sales process. Ford of course took the challenge to match each releasing their own hands-free driving and a simplified online focused digital buying process. While neither of these match what Tesla has to offer, it’s the beginning of something great.
Whether it be due to empathy for our environment, regulations, or more simply garnering the attention of growing tech enthusiasts, the EV customer base is constantly growing. With over 3,000 dealerships and annual sales in the millions, Ford has yet another significant advantage when entering this space. Simply put, all Ford has to do is offer a good product to convert ICE customers over to new sustainable tech.
But this is where Ford fails.
During the lead up to this launch we’ve anonymously put Ford dealers to the test. Asking basic questions anyone considering an EV would inquire resulted in mixed messages, misinformation, or general unenthusiastic output from dealer personal. In defense of the company, the second time around, which happened after training for the vehicle commenced, went better than the first. We were still told the Mustang Mach-E was actually a gasoline hybrid, but still, better than the first time.
Initially I thought the problem stemmed at the dealer level. People working from commission just either didn’t care about EV’s or didn’t believe in Ford’s ability to compete against a giant like Tesla. However, after recent internal dealer communications from Ford themselves, it was clear the company was taking another approach. Rather than convert their already existing ICE customers, they would cater to the new EV customer.
EV customers are not a different breed nor are they a sub category of automotive customers. EV customers are a glimpse at the future of all car buyers. These customers are not the only ones who want technologically advanced cars with a simplified online buying process, we all do. To divide the two is foolish and will result in a multi billion dollar missed opportunity.
Ford want’s to compete with Tesla, as they should. However, it’s my belief that the Mustang Mach-E would do better as a gateway drug than just another option. Getting customers who had no intent of purchasing an EV, customers who previously remained skeptical and misinformed, to simply sit in the new age vehicle and have their questions answered is both the key to growing the segment and becoming a leader in it.
Focusing on the competition and taking a small percent of customers from the current segment just isn’t thinking big enough.
Extended thoughts on the subject:
There’s still time to make changes, and there’s a lot to change. For now, my internal leaderboard still leaves Ford as a runner up with potential to reach the top.