Ford Chairman Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Farley chat in front of the newly unveiled Mustang Dark Horse at The Stampede in downtown Detroit on September 14, 2022.
DETROIT — Ford Motor CEO Jim Farley was in his element Wednesday night surrounded by transmissions and the automaker’s new 2024 Mustang models, including a surprise new high-performance version dubbed the “Dark Horse.”
There was no talk of electric vehicles or sustainability at the unveiling at the Detroit Auto Show. Just revving engines and the screeching of tires to the applause of hundreds of Mustang owners in attendance.
The scene unfolded in stark contrast to other recent events for Farley and Ford, who have touted electrification and green goals. That’s because Mustang is sticking with gas-powered engines despite the transition to electric vehicles for the seventh generation of vehicles in 2024.
That may come as a surprise, given Ford’s plans to invest $50 billion in new electric vehicles over the coming years, as well as anticipated plans for the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro — Mustang’s biggest competitors — to be electric.
Why did Ford stick with petrol engines for the new vehicle? Farley said essentially because it could … and because it makes good business sense for the foreseeable future.
The Ford Mustang could be in a segment of its own for years to come, compelling those still thirsty for an American coupe muscle car to flock to the brand. That includes non-US customers, who account for about 20% of Mustang’s sales.
“People are exiting the segment like Dodge, so we have a chance to really showcase something new about Mustang,” Farley said after Mustang’s 2024 debut love.”
2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse
While the American muscle car segment has shrunk from what it once was, there is still a demand for the vehicles, which can also attract attention and new customers to their respective brands.
As Ford invests in electric vehicles, Farley says the automaker will continue to invest in its traditional business. It’s part of the CEO’s new plan to increase sales in its traditional businesses, electric vehicles and commercial vehicles.
Farley and Ford chairman Bill Ford declined to say whether the seventh-generation Mustang is likely to be the last gas-powered version of the car.
“Once people don’t want them anymore, it will go away, but I personally think people will want this vehicle for quite a while,” said Ford, adding, “That day will come with a tear in my eye.”
Farley said a big reason Ford is continuing with gas-powered Mustangs is ironically the success of the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric crossover that first went on sale in late 2020 and has actually outperformed the gas-powered version for a few months.
The Mach-E, which has little to nothing in common with the gas-powered Mustang other than a name, has propelled Ford to become the second best-selling electric vehicle brand in the country.
This EV success has given the automaker more flexibility to move forward with gas-powered models compared to competing automakers chasing EV sales and the regulatory carbon credits awarded to them.
Automakers are required to have a certain amount of regulatory credit each year. If a company can’t meet the goal, it can buy the credit from other companies like Tesla that have excess credit.
“The Mustang Mach-E in a way enabled the creation of this car,” said Farley. “Competitors buy emissions credits and they can’t come out with this type of vehicle.”
U.S. President Joe Biden stands next to a Ford Mustang Mach-E (electric) SUV during a visit to the Detroit Auto Show to highlight America’s manufacturing of electric vehicles, in Detroit, Michigan September 14, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Dodge has said such emissions regulations are one of the reasons it is ending production of its gas-powered Charger and Challenger late next year. Chevrolet is expected to end production of the gas-powered Chevy Camaro in the coming years as part of General Motors’ plans to offer all-electric vehicles by 2035.
Announcing electric muscle cars, a spokesman for Dodge, a division of Stellantis, said the company was “celebrating the end of an era – and the beginning of a bright new electrified future.”
A Chevrolet spokesman said the company was not commenting on future production, but added, “Camaro continues to play an important role in Chevrolet’s performance car lineup and remains a high-demand vehicle that our customers love.”
Ford’s biggest rival in town, GM, which is in the process of phasing out its gas-powered products, is aiming to better compete against Tesla, the electric vehicle sales leader.
Farley, meanwhile, said he wants to expand his traditional business with “opinionated products” that, like the 2024 Mustang, including the new “Dark Horse” variant, are attracting debate and attention.
“I had a t-shirt at the dealer show that said ‘Ford vs. Everyone’. That’s kind of our attitude,” Farley said. “We want to be a dark horse. We’re a dark horse versus Tesla in the EV business. We want to bring a new game.”