LOS ANGELES — In order to call the Mach-E electric crossover a Mustang, Ford Motor Co.'s Team Edison needed the approval of one of the most passionate pony-car enthusiasts around: Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
Ford allegedly owns 35 Mustangs. If the electric-vehicle team wanted to make it 36, they needed his OK.
It wasn't an easy process.
"I certainly wasn't sold at the beginning — far from it," Ford said on the sidelines of the vehicle's reveal Sunday night. "They came to me and said, 'We really think we can make this Mustang-inspired, really Mustang-like.' I said, 'You guys aren't telling me you want to call this a Mustang.' No one would say yes, but nobody would say no, either. I said, 'No, I'm sorry, I don't want to hurt the brand. This is not going to be a Mustang.' "
But the team was persistent. They knew they needed the cachet of the name to woo uncertain buyers to an EV and believed they could achieve the necessary performance figures to earn the iconic badge.
Jim Farley, Ford's president of new businesses, technology and strategy, who spearheaded the project, told Automotive News that nerves were high during the meeting, which he described as "one of the top few" important discussions he's been part of at Ford.
"Bill came in the room, we had all the information, we had a really open discussion with him," Farley said. "We had to prove to him it has all the substance of a Mustang."
The crux of the team's argument was that it could get 332 hp and 417 pound-feet of torque from the base version of the five-seater, with a faster 0 to 60 mph time than the base Porsche Macan. The GT performance edition would boast 459 hp, 612 pound-feet of torque and a 0 to 60 time comparable to that of a Porsche 911 GTS.
That intrigued Ford, but he needed a lap in a prototype to seal the deal.
'This is a Mustang'
"When I drove it, I knew it had to be a Mustang," Ford said. "Frankly, I was getting there before because I believed the team when they were laying all the specs out. As it evolved and I started to see the performance characteristics, not just the 0 to 60, but the handling dynamics, the driving dynamics and the styling kept evolving, at some point I realized: Yeah, this is a Mustang. The pony could go on the grille."
Farley said Ford's decision let the team move forward with the project, which was under a condensed time frame because the company had scrapped the vehicle's original design.
"He's a smart guy," Farley said. "Driving is believing. After he got out it was double thumbs-up."
Bill Ford plans to order the first Mach-E, joking Sunday night that actor and Mach-E spokesman Idris Elba would have to be second in line for the crossover, which goes on sale late next year.
"It doesn't replace the Mustang car I love," Ford said. "It's an addition to the family, and it's a really important one."