FREMONT (KPIX/CNN) — Hours after Ford announced its new all-electric Mustang “Mach-E”, Tesla CEO Elon Musk grabbed headlines of his by tweeting his support.
“Congratulations on the Mach E! Sustainable/electric cars are the future!! Excited to see this announcement from Ford, as it will encourage other carmakers to go electric too,” Musk wrote on Twitter at 9pm Sunday night, two hours after Ford made its announcement.
Congratulations on the Mach E! Sustainable/electric cars are the future!! Excited to see this announcement from Ford, as it will encourage other carmakers to go electric too.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2019
The new Mustang appears to be an attempt by Ford to take on Tesla, and it will directly compete with the upcoming Tesla Model Y SUV.
“Thanks, Elon,” Ford tweeted in response to Musk. “We couldn’t agree more. See you at the charging station!”
The Mustang Mach-E GT Performance models will get an estimated 459 horsepower, Ford claims, from two electric motors, one powering the back wheels, the other powering the front. Those motors should be able to make the Mach-E go from zero to 60 miles an hour in roughly 3.5 seconds, a time similar to a Porsche 911 GTS. The Tesla Model 3 Performance, meanwhile, produces 450 horsepower and the upcoming Model Y SUV is expected to share much of the same engineering.
Prices for more basic versions of the Mustang Mach-E will start at about $45,000. The most expensive version will be the Mach-E GT Performance Edition, which will start at about $60,000. Those prices are similar to Tesla’s Model Y, which will range from $47,000 to $60,000.
Musk’s note garnered 10,600 likes, far more than Ford’s original tweet that has seen 7,400 likes so far.
Was the tweet a genuine show of support, or part of a strategic marketing power move to steal Ford’s thunder?
“It’s hard to put ourselves in Elon’s mind,” said Billy Riggs, a research scholar at the Mineta Transportation Institute, and assistant professor at USF’s School of Management.
“What it does is it really establishes Tesla as the leader that everybody is continuing to play catch up to,” said Riggs.
U.S. EV market share through March 31, 2019, grew to 1.8% , with Tesla making up nearly 382,000 of the 1.18 million electric cars on the road. Ford has 114,321 EVs in use, according to the Edison Electric Institute.
Ford is betting its Mach-E will help close the gap, offering up to 300 mile range and 0-60 in about 3.5 seconds, with a planned availability in late 2020. Riggs says Ford’s expansion into the EV market with the iconic American muscle car is significant.
“The marketplace is changing. And we have companies like Volvo and Volkswagen saying they’re going to an all electric fleet. And so if Ford’s acknowledging this as well, then it show that the entire automotive economy in America is also pivoting,” said Riggs.
The ripple effects of Ford’s move is already being felt in the Bay Area. Ford has partnered with Electrify America to begin installing fast DC public charging stations around the country offering up to 150 kW rates. The Great Mall has the South Bay’s only location for now, with more planned in the future. The new chargers are located next to the Tesla superchargers.
“Because right now the charging infrastructure is not there. And it’s not going to take just one company to build that network. Elon has tried, Tesla has tried, and they’ve done a great job, but we need many more,” said Riggs, “If Ford enters that space and creates an economy that supports electric charging infrastructure, it supports a pivot to a new type of vehicle, it absolutely improves the entire market segment.”
For the time being, Ford’s electric vehicles still qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit, Ford executives said. They expect Mach-E buyers will be able to get that full tax credit for at least the first year it’s available.
Ford expects Extended Range versions of the Mach-E with 332 horsepower to get an EPA-rated range of at least 300 miles. The standard range version will go about 239 miles, said Ted Cannis, Ford’s director of electrification. Prototype vehicles are still undergoing testing and refinement, he said.
Even with the standard range battery pack, Cannis said, the Mach-E will accelerate more quickly than a Porsche Macan SUV. (Generally, battery packs that provide higher range also provide more performance.) Two-wheel drive versions of the Mustang Mach-E will be rear-wheel drive, like the Mustang coupe it’s modeled after. Rear-wheel drive is considered ideal for a performance-oriented vehicle.
Overall, the Mach-E will have the best driving dynamics of any SUV Ford has made yet, Cannis claimed.
“It’s a freaking rock star,” he said.
But is it truly a Mustang?
Some Mustang fans have expressed dismay over the application of the Mustang name to an SUV. But Ford executives insist Mach-E truly deserves the galloping pony logo.
Since there’s no engine, electric vehicles don’t need a long hood, but the Mustang Mach-E has one. That’s a classic performance design cue, but it also helps maintain the Mustang family resemblance. It also has a black rooftop, no matter the paint color on the rest of the car, creating the illusion of a low sloping roofline. The taillights spread out horizontally to increase the perception of width and make the vehicle seem more planted and stable like a sports car.
Unlike most electric cars, the Mach-E even makes a distinctly audible sound because, Ford designers explained, sound is an important part of the Mustang experience. The Mach-E doesn’t make a V8 burble, though. The artificially created sound, which can be heard both inside and outside the vehicle, varies to match the Mach-E’s acceleration and speed, like an actual engine sound would. The Mach-E’s sound resembles an amplified electric motor whir, but with a hint of a rumble.
The SUV will have three selectable driving modes: Whisper, Engaged and Unbridled. Things like the responsiveness of the steering wheel and accelerator pedal, as well the vehicle’s interior lighting, the graphic design of the gauges and the volume of the motor sound will change based on the mode selected.
The Mustang Mach-E also has an enormous central touch screen, similar to the screens in a Tesla. Unlike other touch screens, though, the Mach-E has a volume knob mounted on the screen. That was one thing which people really preferred a knob for, Ford designers found.
The Mach-E doesn’t have traditional door handles or, for that matter, any door handles at all in the back. The doors are unlatched using electronic buttons. The front doors also have tiny black winglike projections to provide finger holds to pull the door open.
Like Teslas, the Mach-E will also be able to receive over-the-air software updates to improve things like performance and entertainment options.
One feature that will be added later using an over-the-air software update is the ability for hands-free driving on the highway, Ford executives said. That will be similar to General Motors’ Cadillac Super Cruise system and Tesla’s Navigate on Autopilot. (Autopilot does not allow for extended hands-free driving, though.) Executives did not say when that would be available.
Ford recently announced the creation of a large network of electric vehicle charging stations across the US that can be accessed using a smart phone app. The network was created by allowing different charger networks to accept payment directly through the Ford app. When completed, Ford said, the charger network will have over 12,000 charging stations.
The Mach-E, which will be built in Mexico, will be available next fall, Ford said. The GT Performance Edition will be available in the spring of 2021. Those in Europe and the United States who are interested in buying a Mach-E can make a refundable $500 deposit immediately, though.
Tesla already has an all-electric SUV in the luxury Model X, but Musk has already admitted that it is of minor importance and does not have a huge impact on the company’s bottom line. The more affordable Model Y, on the other hand, has the potential to be a game-changer for Tesla with the popularity of crossover SUVs.
With production on the Model Y slated to begin in the summer of 2020, Tesla may have a small head start on Ford, as the Mustang Mach-E is expected to be available next fall.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. CNN contributed to this report.