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What’s in a name? If it’s the Mustang Mach E, there’s a lot in the name

Ford’s all-electric crossover Mach-E rankles a lot of Mustang enthusiasts and ignores Mustang heritage.

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There’s been a lot of chatter about Ford Motor Company’s surprise unveiling two weeks ago at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Yes, we all knew Ford was working up an electrified vehicle and that it was going to be “Mustang inspired”.

It was exciting to think that the Ford Motor Company might create a rival to Tesla’s Model X. But when the curtain was pulled and Ford revealed that their all-electric crossover was not just Mustang-inspired but a full-fledged Mustang, there were gasps. Mustang enthusiasts felt duped. And the shockwaves amongst the Mustang enthusiasts hasn’t really quieted down since. With that legendary Mustang emblem emblazoned on the front of a four-door all-electric crossover, many Mustang enthusiasts got their noses bent out of shape. I was one of them. I even started a petition on to have the name removed. It has nearly 14,000 signatures and got some national press coverage about our dissent.

The petition is largely symbolic and likely won’t change things. The dye, and the pony logo, is cast. But we can at least let Ford hear our voices and know that we aren’t happy.

Why Are Mustang Enthusiasts Outraged Over the Name?
It’s just a name, right? Those old timers just can’t handle change. Sorry, Boomers. Frankly, those who dismiss the Mustangers’ outrage just don’t have an appreciation for what that car and that logo means to them. And the worst one to just trample over their customers’ feelings was the Ford Motor Company. Mach 1 owner and Mustang enthusiast Nick Cavanaugh told me: “Regardless of the Mach E’s performance, this crossover or any crossover for that matter, cannot and will not ever truly parallel the Mustang’s heritage no matter what emblem you slap on it.”

In the petition, the wording from Lee Iacocca regarding the intent of the Mustang resonates: “The Mustang is a wild horse, not a domesticated racer.” That’s why the logo, the same logo that’s been on every Ford Mustang since its beginning in April 1964, was designed to run to the left. Against the grain. Is there anything more with the grain than a crossover? That’s really the rub against the Mach E. Crossovers are bland (even electrified ones) and should not be linked to a historic and iconic nameplate such as the Mustang. The styling of the Mach E is attractive and exciting, no question.

But it’s still a crossover. Cavanaugh, who is founder of the website All Roads Lead to The Motor City said, “It’s not the Mach E I have issue with. Where I take offense is using the Mustang name on a crossover.”

A Ford insider told me that there’s a lot of internal dissent at Ford Motor Company over the use of the name. I’m sure the decision wasn’t taken lightly. In fact, that same insider told me “95% of Mustang nation agrees with you, but Ford isn’t targeting current Mustang owners with that car. They want different customers.” What this translates to is that Ford wants younger buyers.

The electrification of the Mustang
It’s not so much the electrification that has long-time Mustangers annoyed. In fact many, myself included, would enjoy driving a true electric Mustang. A rear-wheel drive pony car that was full of torque and still handled like a Mustang would be a blast. Even some of the Mustang curmudgeons would relent that such a pony car would be fun. Even Cavanaugh agrees that an electrified Mustang would be fine. “I would certainly welcome an electrified Mustang in the form of the 2+2 traditional configuration. I’ve noticed that’s where people who embrace the Mach E and I have this disconnect. I can’t reiterate this enough: the issue that myself and countless Mustang enthusiasts have isn’t with the Mach e, it isn’t that it’s electric, it’s Ford’s decision to put the Mustang name and pony on a 4-door crossover.”

Also read Torque News managing editor Patrick Rall's view on why "Mustang Fans Shouldn't Hate the Mach E Because of the Name."

Will the Mustang become its own nameplate?
If you can believe the rumors, then yes, this likely won’t be the only non-pony car to get a Mustang name and badge on it. In fact, Ford’s head of European design, Murat Gueler said: “We’ve talked about a Mustang family.” So will we see a Mustang Explorer? Or a Mustang F-150? Murat said, “We don’t want to take the Russian doll approach where you can’t tell them apart other than the size of the car.”

I look at it as how Porsche helped expand their base by launching crossovers. This was considered blasphemy by many Porsche enthusiasts, but it’s helped keep the brand alive. With Mustang sales declining each year since 2015, perhaps this is Ford Motor Company helping to breathe some life into the legendary name and prolong its life. If you extend the Porsche theory as I’ve heard some Ford insiders’ reference, it isn’t an apples to apples comparison.

Porsche did not put the 911 name on their SUVs. They came up with new names. When Porsche introduced the Cayenne, they didn’t slap a 911 badge on it or even say “inspired by the 911”. Seeing the Mustang name on a crossover is hard to swallow. It would be even harder if it were on an Explorer or Edge or F-150. I don’t expect Ford to go that far. At least I hope not.

Could the Mustang Mach E challenge Tesla?
There’s no argument that Ford should challenge Tesla and not concede the electrified SUV/crossover to the Silicon Valley carmaker. Here’s what Ford should have done. They already own the naming rights to the Model E. Ford did this to stick it to Tesla.

So with the history of the Model A and the Model T sealed into automotive history the next logical step and an easy marketing step would’ve been to unveil the new Ford Model E, the next step in Ford’s future. But they didn’t. By putting the Mustang badge on this electrified Tesla killer, they hedged their bet. They are hoping to capitalize on the historic name while still challenging Tesla. With all the bad publicity Ford has gotten over the name, it remains to be seen if they will succeed.

However, to be clear, myself and every Mustang enthusiast want the Mach E to succeed. We just don’t want the Mustang name or logo used in order to be successful. It didn’t have to be this way. By the way, also take a look at John Goreham's story titled "Ford's New Mach-e Has Every Formerly-Unique Tesla Model Y Feature And One Huge Advantage."

See you in my next story where I am discussing how the Ford F-150 pickup truck is going retro. Also, see my recent story about the 2021 Ford Mach 1 replacing Mustang Bullitt and comparing Mach 1 to Mach-E.

Update: Ford Mustang Mach-E is sold out.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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@BobbleHeadGuru (not verified)    December 6, 2019 - 12:52PM

I own a 2016 manual transmission Mustang Convertible.
I am looking forward to getting beat by a Mustang Mach E at a traffic light. I will actually be kind of "proud."
I might even get one, one day.

I am totally fine with the name because I think it will help more than hurt Ford. There are 5 people looking for CUVs for every coupe buyer today. The idea of out performing a sports car in a CUV is appealing to much wider audience, then simply an EV Mustang.

Also both Jeep and Porcshe are "iconic" and tied to specific models, but the Wrangler and 911 are outsold by other vehicles that have those names on them, but do not look like our mental impage of those nameplates.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    December 6, 2019 - 1:02PM

My opinion may mellow on the Mustang branding over time, but for now really don't like it, and I am simply not referring to the Mach-E as a Mustang. It is not that the Mach-E doesn't perform like a Mustang. I'm sure that with the torque advantages of it's electric motors (especially in the '21 GT model) will make it Ponycar-fast, and it will probably handle well with it's low center of gravity (for a heavy crossover). I also think that the Mach-E is good looking, for a crossover. I just don't think that it's a sports car, a musclecar, or a Ponycar, which in my mind are necessary to properly call it a Mustang. I think that brand marketing was the goal here. To sell the "Mustang" brand. But I think that it hurts the Mustang name more than it helps the Mach-E crossover (which I think is good enough by itself to not need the Mustang brand name association). I think that this type of marketing/sales thinking is a typical move by Detroit, where they don't understand the added value of electric cars in the first place, so they think that they need to add more incentives to convince buyers that they are actually cool vehicles. Another example of this marketing ugliness is with Porsche calling the top Taycan EV the "Turbo" S, when of course NO electric vehicles ever have a turbocharger. At least they didn't call the Taycan a 911 Turbo S, which would have been a catastrophe. I like the example of the Mustang brand name being like the 911 brand name. The specific name properly represents a particular type and style of car (or not in this case). I am hoping that these recent examples are simply marketing blunders, and not a new trend of marketing classic brand names as a "product line", instead of referring to the model name's unique history, design, and engineering.

Jesse (not verified)    December 6, 2019 - 1:59PM

The mere name change isn't the point here. It is the name plus the heritage behind it. Mustang started the long hood/short deck styling trend in the form of a 2-door hardtop in 1964. The Mustang started the pony car wars. GM, Plymouth, Dodge, and AMC quickly followed the Mustang's lead. The Trans-Am racing series from 1968-1972 is considered the pinnacle of competition of the pony car era. The phrase "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" was the catch-phrase of the day.

Now lets move to address the not being able to change with the time diddy. As someone with decades of observing the automobile industry, I know the nameplate/heritage of cars.

Lets go back to the original Chevrolet Corvette versus Ford Thunderbird. Both started out as 2-door sports cars. The Thunderbird ended up as a 4-door sedan which was an off-shoot from the shared Mercury platform. Corvette survives.

The Pontiac GTO started out as a muscle car from the 60's. It was a product of the muscle car era. In 1974 it turned into the Pontiac version of the Chevrolet Nova. No relation to the original concept of the car.

The Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo went from 2-door hardtops to mundane 4-door sedans. No DNA relationship there.

Finally, in 1981, GM took the Chevrolet Cavalier and turned it into a Cadillac Cimarron. It is noted for what it wasn' wasn't a Cadillac, just a Cavalier. It was pretended to be something it wasn't.

So when speaking of automobile nameplates, don't discount the value of the heritage of that vehicle, and those of us who were lucky enough to see the original and subsequent generations. To see the evolution in the automotive from the '60s to now is amazing. Those youngsters who don't have that perspective will have their own perspective as decades pass.

Dean Ricci (not verified)    December 6, 2019 - 7:18PM

I would like to see some transparency here on behalf of Ford. Ford shouts very loudly that they have 1,000 orders for their 1st Edition Mustang Mach E. But what about the total # of orders? How many people went to your website after the internet debut and actually ordered a vehicle? When you ask Ford, you can't get a straight answer. I've heard an extremely low number of 7,500 orders total Worldwide. I've also heard of a much higher number. Ford has a hard cap of 50,000 units that they can build in Mexico, limited by battery supply. But Ford's order target is a lot higher than 7,500 for the first year, especially when they want to manufacture 50,000 units. And, with the vehicles being built in Mexico, who is going to pay the Tariff on these, Ford or the Consumer? Ford has a lot to tell us about this vehicle and has so far remained mum, ......

DeanMcManis (not verified)    December 9, 2019 - 11:14AM

Some good news related to this issue is that years ago someone at Chevy had also wanted to leverage the Corvette brand into a separate model line-up, and happily Mary Barra discounted rumors about Chevy doing the same with the Corvette. She said: “I think you have to be really careful because you have to understand what makes the brand the brand,” Barra said. “So I’m not gong to say never, but I think if General Motors were to ever do anything, we would assess it very, very carefully.” Barra, who is a great fan of the Corvette, understands that spreading the Corvette brand name to non-sports/performance car models would hurt the Corvette's image more than it would make other unrelated vehicles popular.