Ford can be innovative when it wants to be. It invented the pony car when it introduced the Mustang more than 50 years ago. And it created the sport utility vehicle when it put a passenger car body on a Ranger pickup chassis 27 years ago and called it the Explorer. Since then, though, Ford has been content to waft along, buoyed by the hefty profits derived from selling light- and medium-duty pickup trucks to urban cowboys.
Two years ago, the company announced it was committing $4.5 billion to bring electric cars to market. The rest of the industry scoffed. Porsche is spending nearly that much to develop the Mission E. The Ford announcement was viewed as a half-hearted attempt to keep investors happy while still cranking out fleets of F-150’s.
But the world of automobiles is not a placid playground where the profits go on forever. Entire nations are threatening to ban the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines in the not too distant future. Despite a push to lower emissions and fuel economy standards in the US, those same countries are ratcheting up their requirements. Every manufacturer wants a piece of the Chinese new car market, which is now the largest in world at 20 million+ vehicles a year, yet China is pushing for electric cars more aggressively than any other nation. Any car company that wants to peddle its wares there needs to dance to the tune being called by the Chinese government, and Ford desperately wants to sell its cars there.
Ford Doubling EV Funding
With that in mind, Ford has elected to use the start of the Detroit auto show to announce it is more than doubling its previous commitment to electric cars to $11 billion by 2022. By that time, The Verge says it will have 16 electric models in its product lineup out, or a total of 40 models with either hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or fully electric powertrains. Crosstown rival General Motors says it will have 16 electrified models in its portfolio by that date.
High-Performance SUV Coming From Ford
One of those all-electric models is reported to be a high-performance SUV that will carry the iconic Mach 1 label which first appeared as a Mustang model back in 1968. A slickly produced video from Ford shows a Mustang and an Explorer entering the company’s new Corktown development center in Detroit just as a bolt of lightning splits the nighttime sky. The implication is clear — whatever the new electric SUV is, it will combine the driving excitement of the Mustang with the utility of the Explorer. Ford says to expect it in showrooms by 2020.
Autoblog suggests Mach 1 may (or may not) become Ford’s preferred designation for all future performance vehicles, just as AMG and Polestar denote hotted up models from Mercedes and Volvo, respectively. The thinking is that Ford will hang onto model designations that resonate with customers — names like Mustang, Ranger, and Explorer — rather than giving its new electrified models names no one has ever heard of, as Volkswagen is doing with its I.D division, Mercedes plans to do with its EQ offerings, and GM does with the Bolt and the Volt.
That could be a solid marketing strategy, but first Ford needs to build the cars that will carry those legacy nameplates. Slick videos and hype won’t get the job done very much longer. The times, they are a’changing in the car business, and Ford is very close to being left behind as the EV train gets ready to leave the station.