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Ford is far from first to the electric, or electrified, vehicle market, but the brand is now doing its best to make plenty of noise about its plug-in plans.

Leading the brand’s foray into fully electric cars is a sports car-cum-SUV, in the form of the Mustang Mach-E – not a vehicle that shouts ‘core fleet’ on first appearance.

However, Ford of Britain boss Andy Barratt maintains that the new model is nonetheless attracting attention from corporate buyers.

“Although it is a surprise to our engineers, we are seeing significant interest in Mach-E from fleets, a lot of fleets that aren’t buying our products in any other form are coming to us, we are not going to them, and want to talk about Mach-E,” he says.

He gives the car’s relatively low entry price point of £40,250 as one reason, but also maintains that curiosity about an SUV bearing Ford’s most famous muscle car name has helped too.

“A Mustang-inspired SUV is always going to have a bit of a unique position,” he says. “But because most people haven’t physically seen the car, that inquisitive nature of ‘where does it sit, and just how big is it?’ is driving a degree of that enquiry.”

At this stage he says that the enquiries are coming from across the fleet sector, with doors being reopened that have been closed for a “long, long time” because of the lack of EV options in Ford’s range.

THE FIGUREHEAD OF FORD’S ELECTRIFICATION – A MUSTANG SUV

The Ford Mustang Mach-E carries the challenge of being the brand’s first serious fully electric model in Europe, with an official range of more than 370 miles, a promised 0-60mph time of less than five seconds and the ability to boost charge from 10% to 80% in around 38 minutes.

There are several features that will be familiar to those who have been nosing around the premium electric models of the last few years. As well as the quiet running and swift initial acceleration that is common to many EVs, there is one feature that takes a leaf out of Tesla’s book – a massive central screen in the middle of the dash that will appeal to those who want their tech front and centre in their car.

As part of the push to spread electrification, Ford has also announced plans to introduce 1000 charging stations at Ford facilities to help employees make the switch. So far, though, the Mustang Mach-E is one of only two fully electric models confirmed for the next year or two, with the Transit following in 2021.

At launch, Ford has spoken about how the Mustang Mach-E marks a new departure for the brand in more ways than one – it is the first Ford that customers will be able to buy entirely online. Thankfully, this won’t apply to corporates looking to place orders for multiple models – fleet managers won’t have to go through and enter each individual vehicle. However, it will still be a different approach.

“We will take them down an online route for themselves, which we are working on at this moment in time,” says Barratt. “We are still in hand-raiser mode, but we do have a solution so we can take a multiple vehicle order.”

Competition for battery-powered vehicles is causing other manufacturers, such as Peugeot, to place early fleet orders to ensure they get a higher allocation in the UK, but Ford says that this will not be necessary.

“We know we are in a very healthy position on our order bank supply. Fighting for our share of supply isn’t going to be an issue,” says Barratt.

Despite this, there might be challenges down the line, with Barratt adding that orders for the new plug-in hybrid Kuga are “greater than supply”. The solution will be, for now, to manage supply and demand rather than fight for a greater allocation, so Ford is confident it will not run short.

The Mustang Mach-E might be the only battery-powered car for now, but plenty more will need to follow if Ford is to comply with the decision of the UK government to bring forward the ban on petrol and diesel cars to 2035.

“We consult regularly with the Government on an ongoing basis, so that news was unexpected news for us and the industry,” says Graham Hoare, chairman and executive director of Ford of Britain.

While he didn’t call for it to be reconsidered, he said that there will need to be strong involvement from authorities if the deadline is to be met.

“The incentive programmes that the Government manages are going to be important,” he says. “The Government needs to continue to stimulate the market going forward.”

More than anything, this is around the non-vehicle elements, he stresses. “The biggest reason why people won’t consider an electric vehicle is the range anxiety and the access to charging infrastructure. A full 35% don’t consider electric because of those issues. So, we have got make sure we bring that along at the same speed, if not a little bit faster than the bringing along of the vehicles.
Tom Webster

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