Adventures In Marketing: Ford Stretches the Mustang Name

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Last night I was watching my beloved Chicago Bears stumble and bumble their way to a win over the Tampa Bay Tom Bradys when I saw an ad for Ford in which the company claimed they “electrified the Mustang.” My inner fact-checker was not pleased.Advertisement

Yes, of course, Ford does have an all-electric crossover-ish (more like raised five-door, but Ford insists on calling it an SUV or crossover) called the Mustang Mach-E. It’s part of the Mustang “family”. So, in the strictest sense, Ford does sell an all-electric Mustang.

But did they electrify the Mustang? No. The Mustang coupe remains gas-powered, although a hybrid model is likely going to be available at some point. The Mach-E doesn’t even use the same platform. The Mach-E isn’t an electrified version of the Mustang. It’s a totally separate vehicle that shares the Mustang name, presumably because Ford felt giving it the Mustang name and badging could allow them to market it as “sporty” while also catching the attention of consumers who know little about cars.

The “Mustang” name resonates better with the non-car-knowing consumer than some electric-related name or alphanumeric moniker.

Ford isn’t the only brand guilty of stretching a truth that’s true only in the strictest sense to sell cars. Every automaker has done this at one time or another – given enough time and YouTube trawling and I could write a book. And props to Ford’s copywriters for wording things such that technically, it’s not a lie, though anyone with eyes can see the Mach-E and Mustang are only related by name.

It’s like me saying I’m a marathon runner – technically, it’s true. I’ve finished seven marathons. But I am not a pro. The guys who finish first finish several hours before I do. We have nothing in common other than the act of running 26.2 miles.

This annoys me because the average beer-drinking NFL fan who caught that ad last night and hardly knows anything about automobiles may now think that the Mustang has gone electric. Which isn’t exactly true. There’s an electric car with Mustang in its name for sale, sure, but it’s not the same car as the sports-coupe they’re thinking of, and certainly not all Mustangs are electric.

I have no doubt this was likely intentional – Ford saying it has “electrified the Mustang” means it can burnish its green cred as a brand while ignoring that another member of the Mustang family recently struggled to obtain more than 12 mpg, even when driven gently, while in my possession.

Never mind that the actual Mustang is still available with gas-guzzling, rip-roaring V8 power.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m glad the Mustang exists in its present form, and I think that there’s a future for internal-combustion Mustangs for quite some time, since the four-cylinder is both fun and fuel-efficient, and the V8s sell in relatively low-enough numbers that they’re environmental impact is likely negligible.

Please note that I don’t hate the Mach-E, nor do I hate the idea of an EV Mustang. I saw an example of the latter at SEMA last fall and I thought it might be a blast to drive. And the Mach-E does look good (especially in person), it may be fun to drive, and I am all for expanding EV offerings.

I don’t, however, like the idea of the Mustang name being used on a crossover, regardless of powertrain type. And I really, really don’t like how this ad twisted the actual truth to make Ford look “green.”

Especially when the brand could’ve still touted the Mach-E’s EV bonafides without making it sound like the Mustang lineup had gone electric. Phrasing like “We’ve introduced a new member of the Mustang family, and it’s electrifying” or “We’ve even introduced an EV to the Mustang family, the Mach-E” or something like that is more accurate and still gets the message across.

I’m going to stop thinking about this now because it’s Friday, it’s warm by Upper Midwest standards for early October, and one more week of this interminable hell year has passed. I’m moving on with my day.

Rant over – but let me just add one thing: C’mon Ford. You’re better than this.

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