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Ford planned FWD 'compliance' EV before switching to Mustang Mach-E

The company wisely ditched the plan to build a Nissan Leaf-shaped crossover.

Ford's decision to build a Mustang-inspired EV was apparently not the original plan, coming to fruition only after a more boring front-wheel-drive EV was dropped late in development.

A rough sketch provided to Motor1 shows key differences between the rejected model and the Mach-E. Notably, the initial design had a much shorter and lower hood, a more forward A-pillar, a shorter wheelbase front-wheel drive. Its profile arguably looks like a high-riding Nissan Leaf, clearly attempting to mesh with the aesthetics of traditional zero-emissions vehicles, and staff bluntly referred to it as a "compliance car."

Current CEO Jim Hackett reportedly told the team to start over when he took the reins in 2017, tasking the designers with eliminating the 'greenness' of the original FWD car. Leaders were apparently in agreement with the decision after seeing sketches of the sportier model that became the Mustang Mach-E, which leverages the pony-car nameplate and engages the growing market for coupe-like crossovers.

The thinking at Ford is apparently different than General Motors, where the Chevrolet Volt started as a sporty concept but ended up looking like a Toyota Prius clone in its production form. The Chevy Bolt and BMW i3 followed suit, arriving on the market as buyers continued to flee the unpopular subcompact hatchback segment.

The inexplicable product decisions may have reflected a belief that EVs needed to target existing Prius/Leaf owners, rather than aiming for mainstream buyers. This misguided view was presumably shattered when Tesla received nearly a half-million Model 3 deposits by mid-2017, around the time Hackett would have been reviewing Ford's EV strategy.

The Mach-E will arrive on the market as a direct rival to the upcoming Model Y in terms of positioning, price, range and performance. Tesla is expecting the Y to eclipse sales of the Model S, X and 3 combined. Ford is presumably hoping to be the first Detroit Big Three automaker to take advantage of the same trend among its existing customer base. The Blue Oval is already preparing to follow up with an all-electric version of the F-150, the best-selling nameplate in the US market for many years running.

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