DETROIT — Two years ago, Jim Farley visited Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn, Mich., design studio to review a long-range battery-electric crossover that had been in development for the past three years.
The new CEO, Jim Hackett, had just tapped Farley as president of global markets, a job that includes overseeing the company's electric vehicle plans. Ford was behind in the segment and sorely needed an EV that could compete with rivals such as General Motors and Tesla.
What he saw — essentially a wagon version of the Focus Electric — wasn't going to cut it.
"He took one look and said, 'No way, no how. You guys are rebooting this program,' " recalled Jason Castriota, brand director for Ford's battery EVs.
The quick rejection was a gut punch for the development team. But Farley's criticism also sparked what the vehicle would eventually become. He wanted it to be inspiring and performance-oriented, not just another compliance car.
"Think Mustang," Farley told them.
Ford on Sunday revealed the byproduct of that advice: the 2021 Mustang Mach-E, a battery-electric crossover with a range of at least 300 miles.
It's the first utility vehicle to carry the iconic pony-car badge, and the nameplate is a play on the performance-oriented Mach 1 moniker. Castriota said it will be Ford's "best-handling vehicle" and boast driving specs comparable to those of a Porsche.
The Mach-E represents a full pivot in Ford's product strategy under a compressed time frame. The design team basically had to start from scratch, changing everything from the quality of the exterior mirrors to the size of the interior display screen.
"The day we decided this would be Mustang-inspired, we saw everyone light up," said Darren Palmer, Ford's global head of product development for BEVs. "It upped the ante hugely."