Ford has announced an all-in push for more EVs recently with the pledge to build several new hybrid vehicles by 2020, including hybrid versions of the F-150 pickup,
Honestly, we’re all for it, the future looks bright from both an efficiency and enthusiast standpoint. The new technology and lack of eight cylinders (and in many cases six cylinders) will take some getting used to, but once we all adjust, we’ll likely be better for it. This move by Ford makes sense. Hybrid and electric powertrains are the future. However, gasoline powered cars still outsell hybrids and probably still will by 2020. A hybrid Mustang has us a bit worried. Will anyone actually buy the thing?
Ford’s Hybrid Mustang Options
The hybrid Mustang can go two ways. The first option for Ford is to chase high fuel economy numbers, essentially turning the Mustang into a much more attractive two-door Prius. That is not a smart move. The people buying hybrids for their efficiency want four doors and generous cargo space. The second option—the option that makes sense—is to use the torque benefits of electrifying the powertrain to create a seriously fast monster of a car. This would make the Mustang an affordable sports car with modern technology.
High-performance hybrid cars have the potential to bury their gas-only competition. Look to the Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and new Acura NSX. All of them have hybrid powertrains. All of them are very impressive. The issue with these cars? They’re crazy expensive. The Hybrid Mustang could be the first really affordable hybrid performance car.
There have been a couple botched attempts at this. The Honda CR-Z could have been a real winner but was, unfortunately, uninspiring and sold poorly. The Lexus CT 200h tries to be sporty but lacks any serious acceleration, opting instead to focus on efficiency. The new BMW 330e is close, but its base MSRP of around $44K excludes it from really being an “affordable” sporty hybrid. Ford has an opportunity to make something great, to do something truly innovative, different and impressive. Still, though, if nobody buys it, the hybrid Mustang could be short lived.
Will It Sell?
According to Good Car Bad Car, Ford sold 105,932 Mustangs in 2016. The previous year the company sold 122,349. That’s a significant drop. Back in October, we reported that muscle cars were selling poorly. Ford even temporarily stopped production for a short time due to waning demand. While the dip in muscle car sales could be due to a number of things, part of it is likely the fact that many shoppers prefer CUVs and SUVs to high-powered coupes. Creating a hybrid Mustang could have no impact on how people feel about the car. It’s still not as practical as a Ford Escape or a Chevrolet Equinox.
Another thing to think about is that bringing a hybrid powertrain to a model that has been known as a muscle car may just rub people the wrong way. Ford has already taken steps to make the Mustang more of a world car rather than strictly an American muscle car by popping its excellent but somewhat annoying 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder into the engine bay. Still, the company has a long way to go to dissolve the well-crafted V8 muscle car ethos that the Mustang carries with it. Anything but a V8 under the hood is plain unacceptable in many people’s eyes, and that could prevent some would-be buyers from going the hybrid route should they have the option.
The only way we see to get around the muscle car issue is to make the hybrid Mustang the fastest Stang in the lineup. That way people will only focus on how insanely fast the car is and forget the fact that there’s no V8 warble emanating from the car.
It will be interesting to see how Ford manages to keep the Mustang relevant in the fast changing automotive environment. We expect the Stang will stick around, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the hybrid version of the car will be not only a performance monster but widely appealing.