Electric SUVs, hybrid Mustangs and F-150s, and autonomous Fords designed strictly Uber. Yeah, the carpocalypse is here.
As a result of wanting to be part of the hand of change and not just a victim caught in the resulting flood, Ford is planning to introduce 13 electrified vehicles within the next five years, seven of which have just been announced today following news of a massive policy shift for the automaker. If a turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang was the canary in the coal mine, then the hybrid Mustang that Ford previewed today is the collapse of the arterial mine shaft.
Ford’s deliberate shift in policy towards rebranding itself as a purveyor of clean mobility and not just any old car company was foretold by its interest in offering a ride share service and rumors of hybridized trucks. In this recent announcement, Ford solidified its new position by saying, “The plans are part of the company’s expansion to be an auto and a mobility company, including leading in electrified and autonomous vehicles and providing new mobility solutions.” These ideas are outlined by plans to build hybrid versions of the hugely popular F-150 pickup truck and the Mustang. Both will be built at their respective plants and hit the market in 2020, with the pony car gaining “V8 power and even more low-end torque.”
How humiliating would it be for lifelong enthusiasts if the hybrid Mustang is the quickest at the drag strip? Police officers will join in the hybrid frenzy because Ford is debuting two new “pursuit rated” hybrid police cars, likely variants of the Taurus and Explorer-based Interceptor and Interceptor Utility pursuit vehicles we currently scan our rear view mirrors for. For those with people-hauling needs, Ford will also sell a plug-in hybrid version of the Transit in 2019 aimed at the European market. American families wanting to partake in the battery-powered fun have an all-new and all-electric SUV to look forward to that will feature 300 miles of range, “Made in Flat Rock” badges, and will infiltrate dealership stocks by 2020.
This SUV, which will likely outdo the Model X by being priced for the masses, could be a cue to Tesla that its monopoly on the practical mass market EV is over. Those claiming that Autopilot will keep Tesla ahead of the game can be rebutted by Ford's disclosure that a high-volume autonomous vehicle will be ready by 2021. Once these self-driving Fords leave their Flat Rock, Michigan assembly lines, they will be destined for commercial ride share services. This marks a huge change in the industry, denoting the first time that an automaker has designed and built a vehicle specifically for ride share companies and expressing just how drastically Uber and Lyft have shifted (and are expected to continue shifting) the industry.
The news that Ford would turn its Mustang into a hybrid was big enough that it overshadowed some crucial details such as the fact that the automaker will be the first to combine its EcoBoost engines with hybrid drivetrains to further reduce fuel consumption. Ford also mentioned that it “plans to be aggressive in developing global electrified vehicles services and solutions." This means that Ford is looking into "EV fleet management, route planning and telematics solutions.” These various technologies that will make EV ownership a breeze include wireless recharging that will make nighttime top offs as simple as parking in the garage.
Ford has also recently partnered with BMW, Mercedes, and the Volkswagen group to build a charger network to rival Tesla’s superchargers, so we wouldn't be surprised if those automakers soon make similar announcements highlighting dramatic shifts in strategy.