Ford's Mustang Mach-E Takes Pages From Tesla Playbook

At the Los Angeles Auto Show on Sunday, Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) executive chair, Bill Ford, introduced the company’s first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E sport-utility vehicle (SUV). The latest entry in what has been one of Ford’s most iconic badges comes in five varieties, the first of which will be available late next year, with some not in showrooms until 2021.

The company has taken a page or two directly from the Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) playbook. First, the initial version, the First Edition, is an upscale, limited-edition model, similar to Tesla’s Model S (we’re leaving out the $110,000 Roadster, the first Tesla because only about 2,500 were built). The Mach-E carries an estimated MSRP of $59,900, while the basic model, the Select, will have a price tag of around $43,895 when it appears in early 2021. All versions of the Mustang Mach-E will qualify for the full $7,500 federal tax credit.

In addition to a limited number of the First Edition models and the Select version, Ford is also selling a Premium edition for an estimated MSRP of $50,600 due late next year, a California RT.1 edition priced at about $52,400 with availability in early 2021, and a GT version starting around $60,500 coming in the spring of 2021.

The Mach-E’s standard battery is rated for a range of 230 miles, and an all-wheel-drive option ($2,700) drops that to 210 miles. Extended range batteries are expected to post ranges of 300 miles for rear-wheel-drive vehicles and 270 miles with the all-wheel-drive option. The extended range battery adds $5,000 to the MSRP.

Also like Tesla, Ford is offering an online reservation system where customers design the version of the Mach-E they want and put down a refundable $500 deposit. Next year customers will verify and confirm their orders and, beginning late in the year, take delivery from a local Ford dealer.

Tesla Chair and CEO Elon Musk tweeted his reaction in response to Ford’s tweet announcing the new SUV:

Ford plans to build the Mach-E in Mexico, not at the Mustang plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, a decision the company announced some time ago and one which drew the ire of President Trump. But, as industry analyst Michelle Krebs told CNBC last week, “Generally speaking, people don’t care where vehicles are made. They don’t generally know where their vehicles were made.”

The issue Ford does have to contend with is customer confusion over the Mustang brand. Combined with its F-150 truck brand, the two nameplates are Ford’s future. Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell told CNBC that so far Ford has been able to differentiate its gas-powered Mustang from the Mach-E, but the company has to be vigilant: “[W]hen you look at something like a Mach-E, it is very different than a Mustang. Having an electrified SUV is a lot different than a performance internal combustion engine. From a product standpoint, there’s a big difference.”