Beauty, Beast, & The Mustang?
The past few weeks have showcased a series of interesting new vehicle announcements. In an attempt to absorb them as much as possible, I didn't immediately write about them, mainly because I was confused. Confused at who's going to buy it, why it looks like that, why it's named that, and if I was being trolled. Part of the people outside of the joke.
Starting with the most normal of the releases, the Aston Martin DBX. A SUV/Crossover that we've known about vaguely for the past couple of years was finally announced. In typical Aston fashion, it's pretty stunning, arguably on of the best looking SUVs ever created. Which, I suspect will be it's main appeal. In the past couple of years, we've seen the rise of the ultra premium, ultra performance SUV.
At the bottom of the price range, you have contenders like the Jeep Trackhawk, then as you go up, there's a stable of variants from BMW & Mercedes, then Porsche's offerings, then at you summit the peak of opulence, you arrive at contenders like the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and Rolls Royce Cullinan. And that's precisely what makes the Aston DBX a bit of an odd duck. It has a 542hp V8, which, while it sounds like insanity, and a handful of years ago would have been, makes it almost the least powerful on the market. We live in a world that has a 600hp Bentley SUV, a 641hp Lamborghini SUV, and a 707hp Jeep Trackhawk.
So, it's not competing solely on it's athletic credentials like the Jeep or Lambo, and it's interior and finishing aren't going to match the opulence found in the Bentley or the Rolls. It has the engine from a Mercedes (which isn't a bad thing), and 1 year delayed Mercedes infotainment, which while better than anything Aston has previously put in their vehicles, doesn't really feel luxury at a $220K CDN starting price when the latest $38K CDN Mercedes A Class has arguably better tech than you do.
Then there's there's the Porsche shaped issue in the room. The Cayenne Turbo. Probably in the mix for the best do everything vehicle of all time, the 540hp Cayenne Turbo will trump the DBX in everything from performance, to build quality, to practicality. The Cayenne is also a decent looking SUV, if not the outright stunner the DBX is. Key point though: The Porsche starts around $140K CDN. For not much more than the Aston, you can park the Cayenne and a 718 Cayman S in your garage. So, for you to buy the Aston, it's all about the looks. And even in our superficial society, I'm not sure if that's enough, but we'll soon see.
Sweeping across the internet faster than you can say hashtag, Tesla's latest offering is it's most divisive yet. Dubbed the "CYBRTRK" (pronounced Cybertruck), Elon's latest offering looks like it would be more at home on the movie set of Demolition Man or Blade Runner than present day streets.
Then come the fantastical claims: It's bullet resistant, can do 0-60 MPH in 2.9 seconds in top trim, and an available "Cyberquad", an ATV that can charge itself plugging into the bed of the truck were among the top claims.
For most people, Tesla the vehicle company and Elon Musk are interchangeable. The closest we currently have to a living version of Tony Stark, Elon is a living PR machine. I mean, how else can you explain a guy that was able to leverage his part of revolutionizing digital payments with his part in Paypal, to starting a space bound company in SpaceX, $100K+ electric vehicles in Tesla, and selling what is essentially a $30 roofing torch for $500 as a Flamethrower? (Sorry, the "Not a Flamethrower") And all without spending a single dollar in advertising.
People buy into Elon just as they do the products he sells. Owing a Tesla not only means not filling up with gas anymore, but you're part of an club with a billionaire, one that has little regard for the rules as established, which in today's world, is something a lot of people seem to be seeking out.
Now, this isn't to say that Tesla is all hype, as many of the products he puts out are genuinely good, if not always executed at 100%. When the Model 3 launched, there were reports of people's rear bumpers falling off after driving through large puddles and corners being cut in production. At the same time, Tesla's been at the forefront of electric vehicle adoption, has the largest charging network built, and produces some of the fastest accelerating vehicles available.
But the CYBRTRK is something different. Pickup trucks are a massive deal in the automotive world, being a major profit center for most full line manufacturers. You can't afford to mess it up, because the segment of buyers that buy pickups are fiercely loyal, even across generations. I can't tell if Elon is trying to troll the public or not honestly, because frankly, it could go either way. A part of me is waiting for him to announce in a few months that the iteration that was shown was a joke, and to unveil the real product. Given the timing proximity to the next vehicle we'll speak about, that's not out of the realm of possibility.
When you add in things like the "bulletproof" windows smashing on stage, the Cyberquad just being a modified Yamaha ATV, and the fact that several design elements don't adhere to NHTSA regulations to be road legal, mean there's going to have to be several changes if it even has a shot at becoming real. Also, unlike the Model 3, which required a $1000 deposit, the CYBRTRK only requires a $100 deposit.
So, seeing people pump Elon's tires about projected sales really doesn't have any weight at this point in time, because of the minimal requirement. At least at $1000, people are forced to take it more seriously as an indicator of interest. As is, this reeks of being a large PR stunt.
Which kind of sucks, because if he treated it more than just a meme on his twitter feed, Elon could really have a shot at putting other OEMs on notice. Despite the fact that its market cap dwarfs Ford's by over $20B US, most of that value difference has come in the last 90 days, and the reality being that Tesla is still the new kid on the block, and doesn't have the same cash to burn that other companies do.
So, if Aston Martin is building an SUV, and Tesla presumably launching a vehicle that looks like it was rendered on a Playstation 1 seem odd to you, then the next vehicle may really throw you for a loop.
When you think of the Ford Mustang, a variety of images could pop into your head. Whether it's the classic Mustang convertible of the 60s, to the muscle car iterations that followed, the horrendous Mustang II, the drag strip standby fox body of the 80s and early 90s, the swoopy SN-95 of the mid to late 90s, the New Edge iteration that brought us into the new millennium, the more modern-retro styling of the S197 of the mid 2000s, and up into the current generation, now transformed into a thoroughly modern sport coupe.
Current variations range from the 4 cylinder ecoboost model that produces more power than the V8 GT did a decade ago, all the way up to the batshit insane GT500 with a 760hp supercharged V8. As much as the Mustang has changed over the years, there are certain hallmarks that lend true to the brand. It's a rear wheel drive, two door, sports coupe.
The Mustang is one of the most popular nameplates in automotive history, and remains a symbol of accessible performance and driving fun in a world where every other week a manufacturer is announcing a bespoke supercar that costs more than your house that only rich youtubers, people who have sold tech start ups, or corrupt dictators would be able to buy. It's also quintessential Americana.
So, if I told you I bought a Mustang, and then brought you into the driveway and showed you my new 4 door electric crossover, you'd understandably be a bit confused. Ford's new all electric crossover is called the Mustang Mach-E. While it does have styling cues cribbed from the famous coupe, there's no getting over the fact that you're looking at an SUV.
The worst part about this? It actually look like it's going to be a good vehicle. Various trims up to a range topping GT model capable of 0-60 in the mid 3 second range, or about the same as the 707hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. External design looks good, although I do wish that the faux grille that's on the GT trim would be standard on all models as the versions without it don't look right. Downsides? The massive interior screen meant to take a swipe at Tesla's standard fare in their vehicles for some reason has a physical knob embedded in the middle of the screen? Guess what the likely first part to break is?
Ford chose to unveil the new Mustang Mach-E at a facility in eerily close proximity to a Tesla facility, something that obviously isn't an accident. It's their not so subtle way of sending a message. Which is kind of why I believe the CYBRTRK unveiling was Elon's way of firing back just to take the wind out of Ford's sails and generate some PR for Tesla, even if it turns out to be a troll design.
Because guess what? While most people are aware of the Tesla for the sheer ridiculousness of it, and as it gets the meme treatment, and the internet discusses it, and online influencers create clickbait videos talking about their new Tesla purchase, I haven't heard anything about the Mustang Mach-E in over a week.
And that's a problem. Ford has finally built a vehicle that gives the mainstream an additional option, in a popular segment, but they named it a Mustang. I mean, calling it just the Mach-E sounds cooler anyways. It's simpler, and it doesn't hamper on the existing 55 years of brand loyalty the Mustang has. The Mustang Mach-E is not the electric Mustang that car enthusiasts deserve, and Ford needs to recognize that sooner than later.
Now, I know it seems like I'm harping on the whole name bit a lot, but I'll tell you why it matters. To me, it seems like the executive team at Ford wasn't sold on developing an electric platform, or they're not confident enough in what they've developed. By attaching the Mustang branding to it, it's a way of connecting an existing emotional connection that the marketplace has. And that has me worried, because if they're going to do this, they need to be 100% committed to it.
Ironically, a few weeks before the Mustang Mach-E's unveiling, we may have seen what the real future could look like for the Mustang. And it's called Lithium. A concept car unveiled at SEMA in Las Vegas in early November, the Mustang Lithium is a fully electrified Mustang coupe with 900hp and even a 6 speed manual for three pedal enthusiasts.
10 years ago if you told me that Aston Martin would be making an SUV, that Ford would be turning the Mustang into an electric SUV, and that the guy who made it so I could buy things on eBay would be trying to make a bulletproof pickup truck, I'd surely have asked you what variety of crack you were smoking.
We live in interesting times indeed. Ford, if someone there is reading this, please drop the Mustang branding off this, it'll be better for you long term. And Elon, it's OK to let the rational people you work with have a say in some things, listen to them. Aston Martin, add more power or more luxury, you pick.
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