Ford CTO Ken Washington has admitted that Tesla did inspire the creators of the Mustang Mach-E. Many people—Tesla-enthusiasts included—couldn't help but see the uncanny similarities between all Teslas and Ford's Mustang Mach-E.
Ford's presentation didn't mention a single word about Tesla or other American electric car innovators at the Mustang crossover's unveiling. However, the elephant in the room has somewhat been addressed since Ford's CTO acknowledged that at least parts of the Mach-E were inspired by Elon Musk's premium electric vehicles. Ford CTO Ken Washington talked with Futurist Robert Scoble and admitted that Tesla did inspire the creators of the Mustang Mach-E. The admission may break some of the awkward tension Ford incited during the unveiling of its all-electric crossover.
During the Ford Mach-E's unveiling, a sort of uncomfortable silence palpitated throughout the room because Ford kept revealing "innovations" that it played off as new features, and were supposedly "never-seen-before" in any car. For example, the all-electric crossover has a trunk in the front, as well as touch screens at the front and center console. These can be found in the Model S and Model X.
I was with @ford’s CTO Ken Washington tonight and confirmed that it was, indeed, inspired by Tesla. Very smart thinking going on at Ford. They are the first non-Tesla automaker to get why to virtualize the dash and build a neural network into car. I didn’t expect that.— Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) November 18, 2019
Ford sold the Mach-E as a tech marvel in the car industry with its humanistic approach. CEO Jim Hackett talked with one of the people who developed the EV crossover's software who revealed the Mach-E to be an always-connected machine that actively learned each driver's behaviors. Some driving assistant features were mentioned, but never fully elaborated on as well. The descriptions and claims of the Mach-E's tech sounded a lot like Tesla's Neural Network and Autopilot.
There seemed to be some shade thrown at Tesla by Ford during its presentation, too. For instance, during the tech demonstration of the Mach-E, a couple jabs were thrown at Tesla when 'single-tap' screens kept being brought up. Ford also reasoned how much safer it was for a front screen to be where a traditional infotainment system can be found, which seemed to be a reference to the Model 3's single-screen approach.
Executive Chairman Bill Ford sat down with Golden Globe winner Idris Elba and talked about the Mach-E's best qualities. Ford explained that the Mach-E was the perfect combination of the two interests in his life: a clean environment and performance cars. "For too long, my two great passions were, frankly, diametrically opposed. If you wanted to be green, you had to give up performance. And if you wanted to have performance, you couldn't be green. That's not true anymore. We finally created a new Mustang, where it all comes together. It's a true driver's car," Bill Ford said.
It's hard not to bring up that Tesla did, in fact, have a car that combined Bill Ford's two great passions before the Mach-E. Tesla has been around for at least 16 years. The best all-electric performance car before the Model 3, the Model S, has been around since 2012.
Ford said that the top-end Mach-E can do 0-60 in mid-3 seconds with zero emissions. He told Elba that driving the all-electric Mustang crossover was like being behind the wheel of a rocket. Comparing the Mustang to a rocket also sort of brings Elon Musk to mind because of SpaceX and the upcoming Tesla Roadster 2020, which will literally have small rockets attached to it.
Thanks, Elon. We couldn't agree more. See you at the charging station!— Ford Motor Company (@Ford) November 18, 2019
All in all, Ford's omission and avoidance of even saying the word "Tesla" or at least "fellow American electric car innovators" during the Mach-E's unveiling left those at the event and people who have watched it feeling a little awkward. The whole presentation was cringe-worthy—to say the least. Now that CTO Ken Washington has addressed the elephant in the room, however, EV-enthusiasts can focus on the more important aspect of the Mach-E, which is that Ford's all-eclectic vehicles prove there is a market for green performance cars and that Tesla's vision is closer to realization.
It must be noted that there doesn't seem to be any negative sentiments between the two companies. In fact, following Ford's unveiling of the Mustang Mach-E, Tesla CEO Elon Musk promptly congratulated the American automaker for its all-electric vehicle. Ford, in its reply, was very humble and enthusiastic in its response. This suggests that while Ford may have approached the Mach-E's unveiling in the same way that traditional companies do--throwing shade at the competition and ignoring past innovators--the company is nevertheless sincere in its efforts at electrifying one of the most iconic brands in its history. And this, in a way, deserves a lot of credit on its own.