The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is having the impact we all feared, and now some people with bad ideas are already assuming General Motors will want to do something as stupid as take a legacy performance model and turn it into something fundamentally unrecognisable with the Chevy Corvette.
This is a dumb idea for idiots, if not for its brashness, for its failure to recognise GM’s other big sports car. The one that isn’t doing so hot. The Chevy Camaro.
With the reveal of the Mustang Mach-E in Los Angeles this week, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas is going around telling people a Corvette sub-brand could be worth nearly $18 billion, according to CNBC.
Jonas wants an electric Corvette crossover he claims will increase sales volume of the Corvette model name five-fold. I want him to open his eyes.
I hated the Mach-E more and more with every teaser we were given, and even more when its fat blue emotionless shape showed up in the flesh-metal. Sure, the Mustang design language makes for a handsome-enough crossover, but the reality behind the decision to brand Ford’s first large-scale electric vehicle after a two-door sports car with a 60-year legacy is a sad truth.
The Mach-E is branded as a Mustang because that’s probably the only way a lot of people would ever buy an electric vehicle built by Ford in large enough numbers to justify it right now. If Ford is going after Tesla—and who are we kidding, it is—you need to grab attention and try to capture the outsider allure of something totally clean-sheet and new, like the Tesla brand.
That’s why you won’t find a prominent Ford logo on the Mach-E. “Mustang” is the sexiest “brand” Ford has, and even its relatively pure legacy couldn’t save it from the crushing tide of insipid dilution in the name of rapid volume growth and investor satiation. That’s business, baby.
But General Motors still has a chance to make the right choice. Or at least, choose the lesser of two evils.
On the one hand, GM can chase down Ford with the Corvette. Again. I’ll remind you Ford brought back the GT supercar—a mid-engined styling tour de force and a pure celebration; a last-chance program that didn’t compromise—three years before Chevy would get the first-ever production mid-engine Corvette out the door after over 50 years of talking about it. So the company is a little used to chasing down Ford with the new Corvette already.
It’s not entirely a bad idea, at least if you’re willing to sell out your pedigree performance model to convince investors and the government you will be a viable business for some time to come (though perhaps only as long as you have strong branding work from decades earlier to cash in on; if you’re never trying something new you’ll run out of cache eventually).
If the goal is to sell more cars and make more money, it’s a great idea. But if the main purpose of selling out the Corvette name to excuse your buyers of the mild shame of being associated with your company, there’s a much better Chevy to throw under the bus: the Chevy Camaro.
First, there’s the obvious legacy of the rivalry between the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. They’re both pony cars, muscle cars, and the Camaro was literally GM’s answer to the original Mustang’s sales success. For over 60 years, just being the “other one” was enough.
But not anymore! Muscle cars as a whole just aren’t as hot as they used to be, though the Ford Mustang and even the ancient Dodge Challenger have managed to post promising sales numbers. The Camaro, on the other hand, has been in steady decline trailing the other two.
This presents the perfect excuse for a total overhaul of what the Camaro can and should be. We know enthusiasts would love a V8 muscle sedan, like the Chevy SS, and while GM has made plenty of those, sales weren’t great. Perhaps that was due in part to a failure to brand and style any of them as an actual Camaro.
So we have a dying car model, its competition has evolved into an entirely new powertrain and segment, people who tanked the economy a decade ago are begging for something, and maybe there’s an issue with getting people to want to buy an electric vehicle branded as a Chevy.
All of this indicates that, if GM wants to employ the same marketing gimmick as Ford to sell more EVs, it should focus on a last-ditch effort to save the Camaro and, unlike Mr. Analyst advises, leave the Corvette the fuck alone.