By on October 9, 2020

Last night I was watching my beloved Chicago Bears stumble and bumble their way to a win over the Tampa Bay Tom Bradys when I saw an ad for Ford in which the company claimed they “electrified the Mustang.” My inner fact-checker was not pleased.

Yes, of course, Ford does have an all-electric crossover-ish (more like raised five-door, but Ford insists on calling it an SUV or crossover) called the Mustang Mach-E. It’s part of the Mustang “family”. So, in the strictest sense, Ford does sell an all-electric Mustang.

But did they electrify the Mustang? No. The Mustang coupe remains gas-powered, although a hybrid model is likely going to be available at some point. The Mach-E doesn’t even use the same platform. The Mach-E isn’t an electrified version of the Mustang. It’s a totally separate vehicle that shares the Mustang name, presumably because Ford felt giving it the Mustang name and badging could allow them to market it as “sporty” while also catching the attention of consumers who know little about cars.

The “Mustang” name resonates better with the non-car-knowing consumer than some electric-related name or alphanumeric moniker.

Ford isn’t the only brand guilty of stretching a truth that’s true only in the strictest sense to sell cars. Every automaker has done this at one time or another – given enough time and YouTube trawling and I could write a book. And props to Ford’s copywriters for wording things such that technically, it’s not a lie, though anyone with eyes can see the Mach-E and Mustang are only related by name.

It’s like me saying I’m a marathon runner – technically, it’s true. I’ve finished seven marathons. But I am not a pro. The guys who finish first finish several hours before I do. We have nothing in common other than the act of running 26.2 miles.

This annoys me because the average beer-drinking NFL fan who caught that ad last night and hardly knows anything about automobiles may now think that the Mustang has gone electric. Which isn’t exactly true. There’s an electric car with Mustang in its name for sale, sure, but it’s not the same car as the sports-coupe they’re thinking of, and certainly not all Mustangs are electric.

I have no doubt this was likely intentional – Ford saying it has “electrified the Mustang” means it can burnish its green cred as a brand while ignoring that another member of the Mustang family recently struggled to obtain more than 12 mpg, even when driven gently, while in my possession.

Never mind that the actual Mustang is still available with gas-guzzling, rip-roaring V8 power.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m glad the Mustang exists in its present form, and I think that there’s a future for internal-combustion Mustangs for quite some time, since the four-cylinder is both fun and fuel-efficient, and the V8s sell in relatively low-enough numbers that they’re environmental impact is likely negligible.

Please note that I don’t hate the Mach-E, nor do I hate the idea of an EV Mustang. I saw an example of the latter at SEMA last fall and I thought it might be a blast to drive. And the Mach-E does look good (especially in person), it may be fun to drive, and I am all for expanding EV offerings.

I don’t, however, like the idea of the Mustang name being used on a crossover, regardless of powertrain type. And I really, really don’t like how this ad twisted the actual truth to make Ford look “green.”

Especially when the brand could’ve still touted the Mach-E’s EV bonafides without making it sound like the Mustang lineup had gone electric. Phrasing like “We’ve introduced a new member of the Mustang family, and it’s electrifying” or “We’ve even introduced an EV to the Mustang family, the Mach-E” or something like that is more accurate and still gets the message across.

I’m going to stop thinking about this now because it’s Friday, it’s warm by Upper Midwest standards for early October, and one more week of this interminable hell year has passed. I’m moving on with my day.

Rant over – but let me just add one thing: C’mon Ford. You’re better than this.

[Image: Ford]

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41 Comments on “Adventures in Marketing: Ford Stretches the Mustang Name...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “C’mon Ford. You’re better than this.”

    Turns out, they really are not.

  • avatar
    JMII

    It was an ad – not sure what your expectations are but I assume the minimal BS level is about 70%. If the ad is on between 1 & 4 AM then level is more like 90%.

    To me Ford is not trying to up their green cred here, they are just using the Mustang name, which people know and love, to get people talking. Apparently its working because here we are.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Based on one of the promotional videos I saw for the Mach E, Ford has gone to great lengths to make it equivalent to a “real” Mustang in terms of acceleration, handling etc. If the Mach E can actually do that, then I think it’s ok for it to wear the Mustang name.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t really like this car. Partly because of the cheesy name and partly because it uses a giant Tesla screen when the whole reason to get not-a-Tesla is so you don’t have to deal with that brand’s user interface.

    But there are many things I don’t like, so what am I going to do? People will either buy it or they won’t.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I wish the interior looked more like a classic Mustang. That new Russian replica Mustang EV has a more “Mustang” dash with a huge screen in the middle than the Mach E has.

  • avatar

    I’ll chime in as a current Mustang owner; a very clean 2002 GT V8 convertible with only 66k miles.

    Tim, your point is spot on. The Mach-E is not a Mustang and is an insult to the badge.

    Not because it’s electric. An electric Mustang is inevitable. And with the instant torque of EV’s, it’ll easily dust my ICE Mustang.

    But after 55+ years of history, the Mustang name is being placed on a vehicle that has nothing to do with the car’s pedigree; a family-oriented CUV. The least sexy, most generic segment today. It’s simply a fad and Ford is cashing in on the only car model it hasn’t discontinued or flopped.

    Imagine if Ford had badged the 1986 Aerostar as the Mustang-V or something silly. Hard to imagine? Both were rear wheel drive, offered a V6, and a manual transmission. The Aerostar was part of the minivan craze of the time and considered cool with its space shuttle styling. Looking back, what a mistake it would’ve been in this hypothetical scenario. This Mach-E is no different.

    It’s likely a very good car, but call it something else. Ford will get some sales for the name, but could lose some of their most loyal buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I have to disagree. I’ve loved Mustangs since their introduction in my childhood, and I think the expansion of the Mustang name to include this vehicle with performance potential and styling cues was marketing brilliance. I highly doubt someone in the market for a Mustang GT is going to turn away because this new family member. I also don’t find crossovers bland – to me it’s a highly functional shape, much more so than a sedan. Once they’re out and we can see if Ford has their quality up to speed, I’d certainly consider one.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    Oh just wait until the E Vette comes out, It’s not a real Vette, just like when the 68 was introduced! I want one, not a 68, an E

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    This is not a Mustang. Ford prostituted the name for buzz, and they got it. Not all positive for sure, but we are talking about it, aren’t we?

  • avatar
    Johnster

    I keep thinking about how, a long, long time ago, in a land far away, there was a car make called Oldsmobile that had a successful model called “The Cutlass.”

    Soon Oldsmobile started calling almost all their cars, well more than half of their cars, “Cutlasses.” There were mid-sized Cutlass Supremes, Cutlass Cieras and Cutlass Cruisers, and the compact Cutlass Calais and the just plain Cutlass. It turned out so well for Oldsmobile, didn’t it?

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      The Cutlass analogy was the first thing I thought of, as well. Of course, Chrysler seems to have done okay with the sedan version of what was originally the specialty Charger musclecar coupe. Likewise, Ford renaming what was supposed to be a FWD Mustang as the Probe didn’t exactly pan out, either. So, Ford spending their hard-earned Mustang brand-equity on a new model is a gamble that could go either way.

      In fact, if the Mustang Mach-E turns out to be a success, I dare say it holds the potential of spelling the end of the traditional RWD Mustang coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I wouldn’t hold my breath. Tesla owns the EV market and I doubt very much this POS is going to change it, especially given the current economic situation. Not only must a Tesla killer match or exceed Tesla’s technology, but the marque’s perceived panache and status in the market.

        Oh and ranges from $42,895 – $60,500 but Hecho in Mexico. Nice touch, Hackett.

        Unlike the ICE Mustang models, the Mach E will not be assembled in the United States. Rather, it will be produced in Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico.[1] According to Ford CEO Jim Hackett, assembling the vehicle in Mexico will allow Ford to make a profit from the first vehicle, unlike other electric vehicles. He also stated that as Ford develops factory capacity for electric vehicle production in the United States, production could be moved there. The company is also considering production in China.[14]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mustang_Mach-E

  • avatar
    mcs

    This is probably inevitable. Prepare yourselves…

    https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/henry-payne/2019/08/13/corvette-suv-speculation/1953350001/

  • avatar

    How it is different of Porsche making SUV which is called Porsche something. Do you think Porsche is better than that?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Porsche building SUV models and giving them their own names isn’t the same as Ford calling a car that’s not really a Mustang a Mustang in a cynically ploy to bank off the cred of the name.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The Mach-E might be a bridge vehicle like the Mustang II. The Pintostang was the bridge that kept the Mustang name alive. The Mach-E might be the bridge between old farts like me buying Mustang GT and Ford bringing an entirely different customer. The real question is what will Ford call their version of “ludicrous” mode? Hank II? Deuce? Shelby? FWIW 67 GT Convertible with Hipo engine and 90 Mustang GT convertible.

  • avatar
    chris724

    Is there a single part common to both this and the IC powered Mustang? Maybe some of the fasteners. It’s a different car! Calling this a Mustang is just marketing, and marketing can be really dumb.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I saw the same commercial the other day and had the same shouting match in my head with the commercial.

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter though. I wouldn’t buy it regardless of what they call it. It’s not meant for me and they don’t care about my thoughts.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    “ presumably because Ford felt giving it the Mustang name and badging could allow them to market it as “sporty” while also catching the attention of consumers who know little about cars.”

    Completely wrong.

    Ford called this electric Edge Mustang because they knew they cobbled together a pretty poor electric vehicle. So, to spice up this modern day Aztek, Ford drew on the only vehicle sub brand that has any value left in it and that is the Mustang. The entire goal was to rest on the laurels and heritage of the Mustang to sell this inferior mommy mobile.

    It’s no better than the pedestrian Model Y. If you can’t beat Tesla (could the bar be lower?), then you have to try gimmicks to make your product appear better than the competition.

    Ford is so willing to desecrate the Mustang name they would name a minivan after a Mustang if they think it would move metal.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      I wonder if the Aztek had sold better if it had been labeled as the Firebird SUV…

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Tesla really is the company to beat.

      I’ll probably own one long before someone beats them at the EV game. If someone does best them, I’ll win by buying that car instead.

      The Mach-E is one of the more serious also-rans (when benchmarked against Tesla), and I wish Ford success in the market. The more EVs, the better.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Seeing the Mach-E makes me wish that Ford instead gave it a full-width taillight and beak nose, a wrap-around dashboard and back seat–and called it a Thunderbird.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    @Tim Healey,

    Ford Motor Company has a new CEO as of October 1. I wonder if he has made any changes in his first 10 days on the job?

    Do a Google search on “Ford Farley” and on the “Tools” menu select “Past Month” – you could get 3-4 solid posts right there, generating interesting and informed comments.

    Or you could do a weak “I-I-I-I” post (14 times) rehashing your personal butthurt over the wording in an ad. It really depends on what kind of website you want to have. (Since you do run it.)

    [At this point I could close with “Rant over – but let me just add one thing: C’mon Healey. You’re better than this.” but that would be kind of stupid.]

    • Ford’s new CEO is a gearhead. • He would like to get Ford’s profit margin to a consistent 8%. • He very likely has a personal blind spot around the dealership model. • The strategic retreat continues. • How will things be different with Farley vs. Hackett? • Are commercial vehicles the answer? [This is not rocket science.]

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I am aware Farley is the new CEO. But the topics you mention are separate news stories. This is me having an opinion about Ford’s marketing tactics. We have bandwidth for both opinions about Ford marketing – which you are free to disagree with — and news stories about Ford and Farley.

      And if you think we’re undercovering Ford, that’s fair, but we’re a small team writing 5-10 posts a day and we’re short handed (though we should have a new news chief onboard soon). We cover the industry as best we can, and having an opinion about Ford doesn’t mean we can’t also cover the news side.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    Ford has lots of misadventures in marketing lately. I saw an ad for the Escape this week that has a woman driving one and being overtaken by a flock of drones, and later on by a pack of threatening-looking motorcyclists. How an Escape would enter into her dealing with either of those threats escaped me.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Having lived a few years in Hawaii, every time I see Mach E in print, an Hawaiian word commonly used by locals comes to mind. “Make”, pronounced ma-kay. It means dead.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Stumble and bumble so very appropriate to describe Ford strategy of using Mustang on this vehicle. Damage existing branding while creating confusion with new product. Terminate the relationship with person responsible for this decision.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    not a Mustang

    call it the Ford Probe, that was supposed to replace the Mustang so do it again

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I think ‘Mach-E’ would have been a perfectly good name on its own. Calling it a Mustang is heinous. In fact, I’ll bet it get called a Mach-E in the real world more than a Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The real question is whether lincoln will have a Mach-E Mark? I don’t like the Mustang name on this for a different reason. Someday, we’re going to have an electric Mustang Coupe and this will confuse things. I would have done a four door lowered version like the Mach-E 1400 and called it a Torino or Gran Torino. I’d have called the Mach-E the Maverick. Then a 2 door lowered version That would be the Mustang GT-E.

      Check out the 1400. It doesn’t look as bad when it’s lowered. In fact, if I were to get a Mach-E, I’d definitely look into lowering it:

      https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2020/07/21/all-electric-mustang-mach-e-1400-prototype.html

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Call it the Lightning and be done with it. That’s a word related to electricity. The only issue here is that Ford are probably saving that for a high-zoot version of the F-E50.

    As for the car itself, there’s a bit too much going on with the front grille work and fascia. Otherwise, it’s probably perfectly adequate as a personal vehicle. Gone are the days of the 50 mile-range electric bodypods.

  • avatar

    I have two major issues with the Mach-E. The front grille does not look like a Mustang to me. It looks more like an Escape TRYING to look like a Mustang. The “grille” space should be wider and lower. A bit more menacing. Mustangs have an iconic look to the front grille and the Mach-E does not have it.

    Secondly, the interior is more bad Tesla knock-off than Mustang. Again, Mustangs have had an iconic dual cockpit design. And once again, the Mach-E does not deliver. Take a look at the interior design of the new 2022 Hyundai Tuscon. Now THAT’S how the Mach-E interior should look. Dual cockpit design yet a beautifully integrated Tesla-style tablet.

  • avatar
    Bill Henderson

    No, Ford has a history of this. I have a 2008 Taurus X. It’s an “SUV” also.
    Love the car.
    Hate the name.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    They should have said they electrified “the SPIRIT of the Mustang.” Still BS but not an egregious lie like what they went with.

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