I get it. Really, I do. You’re Ford, building what looks to be an electric Mazda CX-5, and you want people to buy it. You’re worried that because no one has ever built an electric CX-5 before, no one will buy one, either. You’re worried your electric crossover won’t stand out in the endless sea of other new electric crossovers, very few of which are actually interesting to look at unless they have Falcon Doors. But people buy Mustangs. They love Mustangs. So call it a “Mustang” and you can quit with the flop sweat over your massive investment. Except that’s incredibly craven, cynical, and condescending. I am not a fan.
This isn’t going to be a thing about how “Ford is watering down the Mustang’s good name.” Firstly, the name “Mustang” is merely corporate branding, and the sooner you divorce yourself from sentimental attachments to material things you will start living a more peaceful life. And after all, Ford has besmirched the Mustang’s own “good name” plenty of times already.
Don’t get me wrong, the current Ford Mustang is a wonderful car. Really, it is. It makes great noises and it’s fast and comfortable and surprisingly nimble, and the interior isn’t a bad place to be either. The inside is, dare I say it, possibly even nice. At the moment, it is a solid staff favorite.
But it wasn’t always that way. The Mustang II, as literally everyone knows, was trash. The Fox-body Mustang is known more for cheap speed than its quality or its looks. Do you even remember the last time someone saw that lumpy from the 1990s and actually pined for it? You do not. Any statements to the contrary or imaginings at best, and pure fabrications at worst.
Sure, there were oddballs and hidden gems. The SVO was interesting. The Cobras R were great. But I’m not bothered by any notion of the “watering down” of the Good Mustang Name. That’s because this isn’t about “what Ford is doing to the Mustang,” but what it rather says about what Ford thinks about us, the consumers.
It is no coincidence that most of the new EVs coming out are crossovers. Crossovers are what people are buying! It’s why the “future” is decidedly unsexy faux-SUVs like the BMW iX3 and Audi E-Tron. None of this stuff moves the needle emotionally. No child will ever have posters of those cars on their walls. But they will have Mustang posters, and at the very least, everyone knows the Mustang. This is why all the clueless non-automotive press headlines will say shit like “The Mustang is an electric SUV now” and get away with it.
By naming a four-door, electric family SUV a “Mustang,” and telling us that it’s “Mustang-inspired” with no explanation beyond that infinitely meaningless phrase, Ford is assuming that we’d just accept that.
That we wouldn’t be able to look at it and go, “oh, it looks like an electric Mazda CX-5.” In short, Ford is embracing a certain cultural zeitgeist at the moment. “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Ford may as well be saying. And to assume that people will gobble that sort of marketing claptrap up, that consumers will believe your electric crossover is a “Mustang” because hey look it’s got “Mustang” right in the name, says volumes more about what Ford thinks about you than what it thinks about its own car.
This isn’t a judgment on the car itself, either. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s fine. Maybe it’s even enjoyable, in its own right. But in the era when people feel like they can just tell you something that’s readily apparent to be a lie before your own eyes, it would be good to have something honest. Something that is what it is, and doesn’t try to pretend to be something else in a ridiculously ill-fitting costume.
Just imagine all 5'5" and 165 pounds of me walking around in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey, insisting people call me “Magic Johnson,” for that is who I am. People would find it off-putting. They’d hide their children.
I’m not saying I can come up with a better name for a car (all the good ones, such as “Civic,” and “Stanza,” are already taken). But I think we all can see, with our own eyes, that this one ain’t it.