Ford's research suggests younger buyers care more about the "performance experience" than raw figures.
As a new, younger generation of car buyers becomes the dominant group driving performance car sales, the focus will be less on raw performance figures and more on the performance "experience," says Ford's Dave Pericak.
Pericak, formerly the head of Ford's dedicated Performance division and Chief Engineer of the 2015 Ford Mustang, today serves as the automaker's Director of Enterprise Product Line Management - Ford Icons. Here, "Icons" conjures the automaker's most iconic, enthusiast-oriented model lines, including Mustang and Bronco. According to him, Ford's own research indicates that Millennial and Gen-Z buyers care more about how cars deliver the sensation of performance than about the performance itself. Hmm.
Speaking to Roadshow on the sidelines of the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Pericak said that while a performance product should be capable, the more important question for the younger generations is "what are [drivers] going to feel? What are they going to experience? How are they going to engage with the vehicle in a way they can feel the acceleration and power?"
"It doesn't mean we still won't make the car go like a bat out of hell," he added, "But maybe [acceleration figures] aren't the way we talk about it."
That's one of a few important, tough questions facing automakers when it comes to the future of their performance products.
The other big question, Pericak suggests, is how to keep automotive performance alive in an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment.
"A lot of countries are changing regulations so quickly, and so much, they're almost forcing the performance products out," Pericak told Roadshow. "Our job is going to be two-fold. One is to figure out how to continue to make performance that will exist in some of these regulated countries, even our own, and how do you do it so it's a global offering?"
There's no easy answer, but Pericak promises that one thing Ford won't do is compromise. "If it's a Mustang, it'll be a Mustang. Whatever is offered will be a Mustang and live up to the Mustang expectation."