In an obvious swipe at General Motors, whose first battery electric vehicle to feature its Ultium batteries will be a $112,000 Hummer, Ford’s latest CEO, Jim Farley, told analysts yesterday on a conference call the electric vehicles coming from his company will be cars ordinary people can buy. “We are not going after the $100,000-plus market. These are affordable vehicles,” he said.
When will they go on sale? That is a matter of intense speculation. The first all electric car from Ford will be the Mustang Mach-E, an SUV about the size of a Ford Edge. That car is expected to find its way into the hands of private owners before the end of this year. With a starting price of $43,995, it will cost less than a Tesla Model Y, although the current Model Y has dual motors while the entry level Mach-E will have one. The Mach-E is expected to have a range of 300 miles while the Model Y can travel about 22 miles further without recharging. Fully optioned versions of the Mach-E are expected to sell for around $65,000.
According to a report by the Detroit Free Press, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford, was given a prototype of the Mustang Mach-E to drive in September. He liked it so much he didn’t want to give it back. “We had had to pry it out of his hands,” says Hau Thai-Tang, chief product development officer at Ford. “The vehicle is a game changer,” Ford CEO Jim Farley told the newspaper. “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.”
The Mustang Mach-E is in the pre-production phase at present. “We’ll start to launch at the end of the year. We’re just entering early mass production now, where we start to build the Mustang Mach-E’s in volume,” Farley says. “We’re not ramping up that curve and making hundreds a day. We’re literally building Mach-E’s right now and building a lot but in lower volumes. We’ll build them and test them and make sure they’re perfect. We’ll sort out every problem. Once we’re satisfied we’ve got every problem solved, then we turn on the light switch and go into job one.”
Farley told the analysts on the call that Ford is working hard to build electric trucks like the electric F-150 due in 2022. But before that happens, an all electric version of the Transit work van is scheduled to go on sale next week. Electric commercial vehicles will be an important part of the transition away from conventional vehicles with infernal combustion engines and toward battery powered vehicles.
Ford has one big competitive advantage over GM at present. Its electric vehicles are eligible for the full federal EV tax credit of $7500 while GM’s offerings are not. That may change early next year if Joe Biden becomes the next president of the United States. He has already begun talking about extending the tax credit to include the first 600,000 electric vehicles sold by any manufacturer.
Farley says Ford does not intend to imitate Tesla’s “computer on wheels” philosophy. Instead, the electric cars from Ford will deliver emotion behind the wheel and offer impressive technology that’s more intuitive and less complicated than Tesla, whose interior design emphasizes technology at the expense of usability. “We have an (additional) small screen in front of the driver, which we think is a lot safer. You don’t have to move your attention to the center of the car, away from the road. You can hit a button and pick driver modes with one click. You still have traditional buttons.”
In a Tesla, he said, you have to go through different screen menus to turn on the defroster or adjust the mirrors. Ford wants to make those actions quicker and easier. “There are things you should be able to do in the dark,” Thai-Tang said. “We still have an instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. This is a driver’s car.”
Farley adds he hopes the Mach-E will broaden the appeal of electric cars beyond California, where they are all the rage, especially Teslas. He thinks the Mustang Mach-E will appeal strongly to drivers who live in the Midwest and along the East Coast where charging networks are expanding rapidly. And what about those who still have doubts about the whole idea of buying an electric car in the first place? “If Ford is coming out with an electric car — our electric future is here,” Farley says. “We’re changing as a society.”
“We will have plenty of fantastic internal combustion engine vehicles for you,” he adds. “There will be lots of choice. This transition will take a long time. I will tell you, some of the most skeptical friends I had that I put in the Mach-E, they were like OMG. I really insist. Seeing is believing.” That fits in nicely with our philosophy here at CleanTechnica: “People who don’t like electric cars have never driven an electric car.” If you’re one of those, schedule a test drive today. As they say in the car business, “The feel of the wheel seals the deal.” If Ford dealers are willing to learn how to market electric vehicles and not hide them out back near the wash bay, Ford could be the first US legacy automaker to profit from the EV revolution in a big way.