LOS ANGELES – As many learn of Ford Motor's improbable victory over Ferrari more than 50 years ago thanks to the box-office success of the "Ford v Ferrari" movie, the American automaker has its sights set on a new competitor for 2020.
Ford on Sunday unveiled its first all-electric SUV called the Mustang Mach-E, a nod to one of the most iconic versions of the pony car. The unveiling took place next to Tesla's design center outside of Los Angeles.
While Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford smiled and said the location choice was just "a coincidence" after the event, the Mach-E's pricing, design and performance are testaments that Ford is looking to be the first mainstream automaker to potentially give Tesla a run for its money.
The Tesla Model Y and Ford's Mach-E are expected to feature similar pricing, performance specifications and EV range when they arrive in the second half of 2020. The Mach-E also features a clean, tech-savvy interior with a 15.5-inch screen that is very Tesla-like.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk welcomed the new competition: "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," he tweeted Sunday night.
Ford's Twitter account thanked Musk, saying: "Thanks, Elon. We couldn't agree more. See you at the charging station!"
After the unveiling, Ford CEO Jim Hackett called Tesla a "very good" competitor that has successfully brought attention and enthusiasm to EVs.
"We did it from a customer-back perspective, so, you know, you just have to be mindful of what they were able to do to arouse attention and interest," he said. "I think that the world is ready for performance electric vehicles that are priced right. … We think we'll attract a lot of customers with this."
Attracting EV customers has been easier said than done for many automakers. Auto research firm Edmunds reports Tesla has represented roughly 80% of all EVs sold in the U.S last year and through the first nine months of 2019.
Ford naming the Mach-E a Mustang and including the iconic pony badge on the vehicle is a way for the company to stand out in an increasingly crowded EV segment that suffers from a lack of consumer awareness and interest.
"I understand what they're doing. They're trying to leverage the Mustang name, which is highly recognizable," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader. "They're trying to get across this sporty feel versus this nerdy environmental feel that the early EVs had."
EV sales accounted for just 1.2%, or about 207,600, of the 17.3 million vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2018, according to IHS Markit. The research firm forecasts EVs will account for 9% of U.S. sales by 2026, despite the number of EV models on the market increasing from nearly 20 to more than 120 during that time frame.
By the numbers, the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E are expected to be very comparable to one another and each automaker has their advantages and disadvantages.
Tesla has been able to create a cult-following for its EVs, but the company has many times been overly ambitious on manufacturing goals that have led to quality and reliability problems. The automaker's earnings and share price also remain volatile as it attempts to ramp up its global production.
Ford on the other hand is experienced with manufacturing but also has suffered from reliability and quality issues when it comes to new technologies such as its infotainment systems. It also has little to no experience with ramping up production of EVs and it's unclear if the company can take the well-known Mustang name and translate its success into an all-electric SUV.
Top performance models of the Mach-E will achieve 0 to 60 mph in the mid-three-second range with an estimated 459 horsepower and 612 lb.-ft. of torque. That's in line with the Tesla Model Y.
The Mach-E, depending on the model, is expected to achieve between 210 miles and at least 300 miles of range on a full charge, according to Ford. Tesla estimates the Model Y will achieve up to roughly 300 miles.
Both vehicles are expected to arrive late next year. The Mach-E — excluding federal tax incentives of up to $7,500 that Tesla buyers only partially qualify for — will range from $43,895 for the base "Select" model to roughly $60,500 for the GT.
Announced starting prices for the Tesla Model Y, which is expected to begin production late next year, will range from $39,000 to $60,000 depending on the configuration.