In-house Development: Ford Engineers Applying Finishing Touches to Mach-E From Home

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
in house development ford engineers applying finishing touches to mach e from home

With the United States on pause for the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve been left scratching our heads as to how it might impact the timetable of numerous vehicles slated to debut later this year. Apparently, working remotely isn’t as big a hassle for engineers as one might assume — provided the car is nearing completion. Ford is reportedly continuing development of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E by allowing staff to tweak and test prototypes from their homes.

Ideally, the crossover would be spending more time on factory proving grounds while being fussed over by a full complement of engineers. Yet Ford faces a situation where that’s not possible and doesn’t want it stalling the model’s launch. This is the automaker’s first real attempt at a purpose-built EV and the timing is important. A bad impression could send investors running for the hills; meanwhile, any delay would bring the Mach-E that much closer to obsolescence in the minds of customers.

This is an issue automakers face with all products, but the EV segment advances at a pace that risks giving them a slightly shorter shelf life. Something seen as groundbreaking today could quickly be viewed as lacking as battery technology evolves. That’s been more or less the trend since electric cars started hitting the market about a decade ago. Ford can’t afford to delay the Mach-E, so it’s having engineers continue development from home.

“The Mach-E is the embodiment of a whole different way of operation for Ford in terms of product development and represents a fundamental shift in the way Ford works,” Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Navigant Research, told The Detroit News. “It’s really important as a demonstration both to consumers and the financial markets that ‘We’ve learned from our past mistakes. We are ready to move forward.’ By executing this program in what is a comparably short time period, it shows that Ford really has changed and they are ready for the future.”

From The Detroit News:

Although it might be difficult to run the vehicles in certain scenarios to test suspensions and braking systems, the development team is able to test their electronic architecture and software to ensure all the parts are working properly and reliably. With remote access to most of their usual tools, the developers say they can do almost everything they normally would. Team members took home prototype vehicles to test and from which to gather data.

“If there is a different calibration we want to try, I will jump into the vehicle, the flash goes in, I will take the car around the block, come back, look at the data, and see how things reacted,” said Aleyna Kapur, a Mach-E calibrator who works to ensure the hardware, powertrain and software are all communicating with each other. “Maybe I’ll get back in the vehicle, tweak a few things, and come back to the desk. It’s right there.”

The team used to switch prototypes with one another. Ford had provided a sanitization kit to clean down doors handles, steering wheels and other parts of the vehicles, but since [Michigan] Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order went into effect earlier this month, that practice has stopped. The developers have had to rely on teamwork instead.

That comes by way of virtual conferencing and regular phone calls, often with weekly schedules setting aside time for team-building activities. More often than not, it’s little more than an opportunity for team members to chit-chat. Mach-E staffers, however, seem happy to have an excuse to stay in touch and are doubly happy they can continue working through the pandemic. Not everyone has been so fortunate.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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  • RHD RHD on Mar 30, 2020

    Yecchh. Now if it looked like the car in the article below, then two thumbs up. With an electric car, the body shape is only governed by packaging around the components, aerodynamics and safety. It doesn't have to look so damn weird.

  • Tylanner Tylanner on Mar 31, 2020

    Imagine if your master plan was to release a similar but slightly worse product months after a brand name competitor. I'd be staying home too.

    • See 1 previous
    • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 02, 2020

      @JimZ He's not wrong. The Mach E is exactly that: similar to but slightly worse than a Model Y. The "slightly worse" part is compensated for by the much lower after-tax price, since subsidies are still available for electric Fords and are no longer available for electric Teslas. I find the Model Y's styling bland, and Tesla's habit of launching only with the pricey top-end trims off-putting. So if I can swing a low-end Mach E when it comes out, I'll definitely consider it. But I suspect a low-end Model 3 would be a smarter buy for about the same money.

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