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The Mustang Mach-E is helping Ford find new customers

The Mustang Mach-E is helping Ford find new customers

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The company says 70 percent of buyers never owned a Ford

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Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

Ford has sold more than 7,000 Mustang Mach-E SUVs so far, and it says 70 percent of those buyers have never owned one of the company’s cars.

For comparison, Ford told The Verge that 39 percent of people who bought the more affordable 2020 Escape were new to the brand.

So what does that 70 percent figure actually mean?

Well, if Ford keeps up the pace and meets its goal of selling 30,000 Mustang Mach-Es in the US in 2021, then it’s a promising sign the company is doing important work in attracting new customers. It’s also evidence that a really capable electric car can help Ford carve out new market share, and that some early production issues haven’t scared away unfamiliar buyers. That could be good news for the all-electric version of the bestselling passenger vehicle in America, the F-150 pickup truck, which Ford will formally reveal later this year.

But there is a way this number could break bad for Ford. New customers are great, but if Ford sells fewer Mustang Mach-Es than it planned, a 70 percent mix could be evidence that current customers really don’t like the electric SUV. That could throw more fuel on the fire of everyone’s favorite conversation about the Mustang Mach-E since it was announced, which is whether it “deserves” be called a Mustang.

Ford certainly thinks it’s good news, as it was featured prominently in the company’s first quarter results, which were published Wednesday. “The strong customer response to Mach-E affirms our choice to shift more capital to [battery-electric vehicles],” Ford’s chief financial officer John Lawler said on a conference call.

“We’re going to be chasing demand for quite some time.”

CEO Jim Farley took that a step further when talking about Ford’s new products, like the Mustang Mach-E and the Bronco. “Our fresh new lineup is not only fresh, but it seems to be hitting the mark of the zeitgeist of the customer right now,” he said. “I don’t know where that’s going to take us, but I do know it feels like we’re going to be chasing demand for quite some time.”

But even the most optimistic take on the Mustang Mach-E’s performance is overshadowed by something else Ford shared Wednesday, which is that its overall output is taking a big hit thanks to the global chip shortage.

Ford said that its production will drop 50 percent in the second quarter of 2021 because of the shortage, a far worse dip than the 17 percent drop it already experienced in Q1, which even affected the F-150. The company said it expects things to recover in the second half of the year, but it will ultimately make 1.1 million fewer vehicles than it originally forecast. As a result, Ford said it now believes it will make about $2.5 billion less than expected this year.

Now, Ford’s not the only automaker taking a hit because of the shortage, and its output is also being affected by a fire at chip supplier Renesas. But some companies have adapted better than others as the problem persists. Tesla, for instance, shared strong first quarter sales results earlier this week and said it has largely been able to navigate the shortage.

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