Ford vs. Ferrari vs. the Future: the Failed “Mustang” Mach E Intro…

It’s hard to run from your heritage, especially when it’s a great one-

Ford has heritage in spades, starting with Henry who was both a populist who raised wages  and a union hating anti-semite who hung with Hitler for a bit. Ford remains the only automaker I know of with a working farm and two decades after they sold the tractor biz, “Ford tractor” is the 2nd most common branded tractor search on google, second only to “John Deere tractor”. Two thirds of a century after production ended, half of the best selling tractors ever, the Ford N series, are still alive and plowing and mowing and keeping hobby farms running. Over a decade after dim bulb Ford management practically gave the Louisville heavy truck line to Daimler, “Louisvilles” are still on the job all over America.

That’s just the humdrum agricultural and industrial side of the Ford heritage- In the 60s while Ford was becoming a serious maker of big trucks Ford went racing, everywhere. Not content just to humble GM and Mopar on the NASCAR ovals and drag strips of America, Ford went racing round the world. The deck was stacked against Ford, for example in the Monte Carlo rally the lightweight Falcons tied the legendary Mini Cooper S, only to have the Mini beat them on actual scoring via an obscure “Index of Efficiency” that gave the Mini points just for having a smaller engine. On the endurance racing circuit Ford met similar favoritism, with tiny  two seaters sports cars that never saw a public road required to have a trunk big enough to hold an “FIA suitcase”. 

And then there was Ferrari… The legendary Italian racing team that built a couple thousand road cars in a good year to satisfy the FIA’s “production car” requirements and bring in a few bucks to subsidize the racing team. Subsidies probably also flowed from the larger Italian auto industry, Ferrari being a source of national pride. Thus when Ford tried the simple path to racing victories of buying Ferrari and probably repainting the race cars Ford blue and slapping on blue ovals, Ferrari replied with a guerrilla war of noncooperation and then outright killed the deal.

The simple route to winning the FIA’s world endurance racing championship blocked, Ford took “Total Performance” to the world’s road racing tracks, enlisting a troupe of racing mercenaries including the legendary Carroll Shelby. Using then new NASA and computer technology Ford developed the GT40 and it’s Ford engine into a race winning car that could set fast lap while running day and night like a Ford tractor plowing and planting before an incoming storm. 

 

There’s a movie out last weekend, Ford vs. Ferrari, that details that story much better than I can. While more people saw that movie that polished Ford’s image and told the story of Ford’s contributions to the art and science of mobility during that legendary era of Ford’s “Total Performance” programs, there was not a single mention of the movie over at media.ford.com, Ford’s official media mouthpiece. They were putting on their own show in the halo of this weeks Los Angles Auto Show, renting a nearby theater for Sunday evening and even bringing in a whole choir from Detroit. 

So with the requisite high theatrical production and special effects Bill Ford and Ford’s latest incompetent pretender CEO introduced a new electric SUV, and a reasonably competent one at that. For about the same just under $40k taxpayer subsidized price as a Tesla 3 econobox you get a real car, and in the Ford tradition it’ll probably be rated to tow. Lay out $50-60k and you get all wheel drive and even in the neighborhood of 400HP,  It’ll need those HP, while the econobox sized ‘lectric cars can get by with 40 to 60 kilowatt hour batteries, this SUV sized ‘lectric car cuts a bigger hole through  the air and needs a darn near 100 KWH battery to manage a 300 mile range, and only 270 with all wheel drive. It’s telling too that while ford has given us pages of specs, hey haven’t told us what it weights.

So Ford’s new electric SUV rates as least a B+ grade. But it came on stage in an atmosphere of anger that started when months ago Ford previewed it with Mustang styled lights and threatened to use the fabled “Mach” word in its name. The Mustang has a substantial and financially qualified following, and Ford best not anger them. Ford apparently wasn’t listening to their Mustang loving followers, as they shoved the dagger in deeper with leaks that revealed that this ‘lectric SUV would be called a “Mustang”. Meanwhile the electric car faithful, that core market that’s been driving 50 in the 55 zone that’s now a 70 zone for the last few decades in their Prius and now a Tesla wasn’t tuning in at all- You’d get more attention out of them if you called it a Falcon.

So when Ford opened internet ordering on Sunday night they didn’t break the internet, heck their website didn’t even slow. Ford media hasn’t been proudly forthcoming with claims of thousands of orders, and a day in the “limited edition” model still hasn’t sold out. More important to the close to retirement and loaded with stock options guys who run Ford, the stock bumped up barely a percent then right back down. The Mustang faithful are steaming, and the automotive press other than the ‘lectric car faithful are amplifying their anger at Ford’s ‘lectric pretender pony car. 

It takes in the neighborhood of a billion dollars to bring a new car to market, and this one being a whole new platform and drivetrain, make that several billion. And thanks to Ford’s incompetent leadership they just flushed those billions down the drain. Sorry Ford, but you can’t run from your proud heritage of GT40s, Louisvilles, N series tractors, Transits, and especially the Mustang!