When Ford Motor Co. was attempting to dethrone Ferrari on the racetrack at Le Mans, then-President Henry Ford II had one directive for his drivers: "Go like hell."
More than a half-century later, Hank the Deuce's nephew called on that phrase to help define the company's first battery-electric crossover, due out next year.
Speaking Monday at the Crain's Detroit Business Newsmaker of the Year luncheon, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said the Mustang-inspired vehicle "is going to go like hell."
The callback to that phrase isn't an accident. It underscores a change in strategy for how Ford views its EVs. The company's early forays into electrification included now-discontinued vehicles such as the Focus Electric and C-Max plug-in hybrid that were known more for their fuel economy than performance capabilities.
"When we first started talking about electrification, there was this thought that there had to be a trade-off: It was either going to be green and boring and no fun, or really exciting but burn a lot of fossil fuels," Ford said. "Electrification has come to the point that you can do both."
The vehicle will have a range of more than 300 miles. Production was originally slated for Flat Rock, Mich., near Detroit, but Ford last year decided instead to build the vehicle in Mexico.
Ford has created a dedicated business unit, dubbed Team Edison, to handle production of its EVs. The team is based in Corktown, a Detroit neighborhood where the automaker is spending roughly $740 million to rehab an old train station.
The station, abandoned for decades, will become the centerpiece of a new campus the company will use to woo young talent. The renovation is expected to take four years.
Ford said Monday he'd like to fill the building with a mix of suppliers, software developers, tech startups and — potentially — other automakers.
Ford last month announced the beginning of a global alliance with Volkswagen Group that will include collaborating on pickups and commercial vans. The two sides are also discussing electric and autonomous vehicle development.
Ford said VW, in theory, could lease space in the building.
"It could be them," he said. "Anybody who wants to come down and be part of this ecosystem, we'd love it."
Crain's Detroit Business is an affiliate of Automotive News.
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