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An electric Mustang SUV? Detroit’s big sustainability bet

SFGate Monday, 2 December 2019
Ford Motor’s latest offering seems like an oxymoron twice over: It’s a sport utility vehicle that’s electric … that’s a Mustang.

It’s also Detroit’s biggest bet yet on a mass-market future for battery-powered cars.

The big automakers have been producing hybrid and fully electric vehicles for years. But almost all have been smaller models that found limited demand. Even the manufacturers often referred to them as “compliance cars” — built to help meet environmental regulations while they mainly turned out big internal-combustion vehicles that sold well and made hefty profits.

European luxury-car makers like Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have added electrified models — all SUVs. Palo Alto’s Tesla, which has a fervent following, is on track to sell about 360,000 cars this year and is supposed to add a fourth model, a crossover vehicle, next year.

But with the Mustang Mach E, unveiled last weekend and coming to showrooms next year, Ford is trying to make an even bigger splash. It is taking a calculated risk that automakers can find a market for electric vehicles of the size Americans have come to prefer. (Almost half the nation’s auto sales now are SUVs.) And it aims to persuade buyers to pay extra for battery power in an age of cheap gasoline.

“We’ve pushed all our chips to the middle of the table,” the company’s chairman, William C. Ford Jr., said in an interview. “I hope this will show we are now deadly serious about electrification.”

Ford is hoping some of the cachet of the original Mustang will rub off on the new model and boost demand for electric vehicles, which now represent just 2% of the market. Tesla has a commanding presence there now, accounting for almost 80% of nationwide sales of battery-powered vehicles last year.

The Mustang, however, has its own fervent...
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