Tesla finally has to look in the rear-view mirror at a competitor coming up behind it, and the vehicle it’s seeing is the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Sales reports for March are likely to show Mach-E closing the gap a bit.
The all-electric, crossover version of the classic pony car is still crawling out of Ford’s plant in Mexico as the company scrambles to fulfill thousands of orders from initial hand-raisers. But even with supply constraints, Mach-E accounted for 12 percent of the all-electric vehicles delivered in the United States in February, according to market-research firm Motor Intelligence.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s share of the market fell to around 69 percent in February from about 79 percent in all of last year.
“Mach-E did more than 3,700 retail sales in the first full month it was available, and we had a similar start to March,” Jason Mase, Ford’s electric-vehicle marketing manager, told me. “It’s a great start.”
Indeed, because of strong initial demand and a paucity of early supply, measured by the classic indicator for new-car demand, days’ supply on dealer lots, Mach-E is practically nowhere to be found: It was at a six-day supply level a couple of weeks ago compared with the industry’s comfort level of a 60-day supply of a given model.
“The demand is there, but we haven’t seen many vehicles to sell at this point,” Jonathan Chariff, a major multi-brand dealer in South Florida, told me. “There was a very small amount of distribution in February, less than a handful. Some dealers didn’t see any Mach-Es. “That’s an issue at the present time.”
Mase said that the majority of early units being delivered to Mach-E buyers have been to those who placed a $500 deposit online. “We’ll be building those units into the summer, so there’s been good demand and early customer interest,” he said. “We continue to get new orders every day.”
Besides trying to squeeze every unit possible out of the factory for delivery to placed orders, Ford is addressing the shortage of Mach-Es for tire kickers by certifying more than 2,100 of its dealers to sell the product. Each one of the certified dealers is scheduled to receive a test-drive unit, and by the end of March, Mase said, Ford expected every such dealer to have one on the lot. “People will be able to see, touch, feel and drive it despite the hot demand,” Mase said.
Nearly 70 percent of customers who’ve ordered Mach-E so far are new to the Ford brand, he said. “That’s the highest conquest percentage of any launch I’ve been involved with, and I’ve been on a number of them,” Mase said. “And customers new to the brand are extremely well-educated about the product in general.”
Tesla owners aren’t necessarily the predominant source of conquest buyers of Mach-E, he said. “There’s not one predominant source so far,” Mase said. “But certainly early BEV [battery-electric vehicle] customers are making a switch.”
The top 10 states for early Mach-E customers, in order, are California, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, Arizona and Colorado. One interesting data point is that 23 percent of people who’ve ordered Mach-E also have been owners of the traditional gasoline-powered Mustang, which also has a vastly different design than the Mustang Mach-E.
“These are people who’ve known manual transmissions and V-8 engines,” Mase said. “That’s one of the audiences we speak to.”
Marketing efforts basically began with Ford’s Super Bowl commercial in February which featured Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprising their roles as the Griswolds in Christmas Vacation, with D’Angelo’s character relying on Mach-E to provide the power to light up the massive display of Christmas lights on the outside of their house.
“One thing all manufacturers will face is the challenge or opportunity to get people to consider BEV technology for the first time,” Mase said. “You do that by grabbing their attention and getting them to think differently about what a BEV can be.”
Early Mach-E customers have been avid researchers of the car and BEV technology online. Ford has met their appetites with loads of digital video content about charging the vehicle, its acceleration and torque, and about the personalization of its technology. More than 90 percent of early orders came via Ford.com, not the traditional conduit of a shopper walking into a Ford dealership.
Besides the vehicle, how to charge the Mach-E has been a big topic for online research. About 80 percent of early buyers told Ford they plan to charge the car at home.
Unfortunately, the company had to temporarily stop selling its home electric-vehicle chargers in late February as it directed dealers to third-party sites such as Amazon for generic versions of this key accessory. The automaker issued a stop sale for its $799 Ford-branded wall boxes after the company discovered some weren’t working properly, Automotive News reported.