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Ford introduces the all-electric Mustang

The Mustang Mach-E, Ford's first ever all-electric SUV, at its unveiling in Los Angeles. It has a range of at least 370 km, and possibly 482 km.

Los Angeles

FOR more than a half century, asking Ford Mustang owners why they purchased the iconic American muscle car would elicit some variation of the following answer: "They're cool."

But as the second decade of the 21st century comes to a close, coolness alone, it appears, doesn't cut it.

Auto sales are dominated by a fierce demand for sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and big-name automakers are investing heavily in a future that is expected to be dominated by electric energy.

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After reading the writing on the wall, Ford Motor Company has taken the bold step of melding the Mustang brand with the latest in automotive trends. The result, unveiled late on Sunday, is the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV that the company claims will have a range of at least 370 km and possibly up to 482 km, depending on how the vehicle is equipped. (For comparison, the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 have ranges of 418 km and 354 km respectively.

Toying with, much less fully reimagining, the classic car was undoubtedly no small decision. When Ford announced its plans last year to stop making passenger cars in North America due to declining sales, the Mustang was the lone exception.

With over-the-air software updates and a touch screen dominating the console, in some ways the five-seat "all electric pony" more closely resembles a Tesla than its more immediate family members, which include the sports coupe, convertible and special-edition Mustangs.

The resemblance is not limited to style. The company touted an idea that Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk pioneered years ago - that electric vehicles can be cool.

Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product development and purchasing officer, said: "The Mustang Mach-E wholeheartedly rejects the notion that electric vehicles are good only at reducing gas consumption. People want a car that's thrilling to drive, that looks gorgeous and that can easily adapt to their lifestyle - and the Mustang Mach-E delivers all of this in unmatched style."

Also like Tesla: To purchase a Mach-E, customers are being asked to visit the vehicle's registration site and make a US$500 reservation deposit. (Deliveries for certain editions won't begin until the spring of 2021).

On a website devoted to the vehicle, Ford highlights specs that no longer seem incompatible, such as the Mach-E's ability to go from 0-100 kph in the mid-three-second range, alongside information about the convenience of charging.

Experts say consumers are drawn to SUVs and crossovers for their versatility. The vehicles offer more space, a higher ride off the ground and the ability to accommodate families. Some buyers gravitate toward them for an even simpler reason: they feel like they're easier to get inside than a car that is lower to the ground.

Unlike a decade ago - when a combination of rising fuel prices and economic anxiety led consumers to opt for smaller vehicles - a new generation of efficient engines have made SUV purchases a sound choice financially. The reason that many consumers resisted buying SUVs - high fuel consumption - has been eliminated by engineering improvements. Though Ford's embrace of electricity trails Tesla, it doesn't mean the company is behind the curve.

In recent years, many of the world's largest automakers - BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes - have unveiled stylish electric vehicles that combine pleasing looks with formidable power. Even General Motors has begun its gradual shift away from internal combustion engines while touting what executives refer to as an "all-electric future." WP