The resounding box office success of Top Gun: Maverick, in which Tom Cruise reprises his role as fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is the most recent example of America’s love of nostalgia. Despite the nearly forty year interval between the two films, diehard fans of the original Top Gun and new filmgoers alike were enticed to return to the big screen.
The Ford Motor Company has a similar opportunity to revisit the phenomenal success of the original Mustang, a two-door sports car that sold over one million units in its first two years. Named after the World War II fighter plane, and launched at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, what came to be known as the “pony car” combined the best of European styling and American ingenuity. In the new age of EVs, Ford has launched the Mustang Mach-E SUV, which carries the Mustang moniker, but, let’s face it, in no way resembles the original.
To be sure, Ford has taken strong steps to electrify its product line, as evidenced by MotorTrend’s recent unanimous selection of the Ford F-150 Lightning as Truck of the Year for 2023. But why not create a real Mustang EV, similar in body design to the one that captured the imagination of a generation of car-buyers. An authentic looking and performing Mustang would give Ford the chance to create a “two-horse” race with Tesla, whose Model 3 is the early leader in the EV passenger car category. By doing so, Ford would be making a statement that it will not cede this all-important segment as the world shifts from combustion engines to electric motors.
Rather than compete solely on the basis of safety features and battery range, Ford could bring back the original pony interior, with its alluring three-dimensional image of horses in flight. Rivian Automotive has made a minor splash in the pickup truck world with its vegan leather interior, an obvious appeal to the environmentally conscious. With vinyl records making a comeback, Ford could bring back the original vinyl interior of the Mustang, or perhaps an engineered material which does not bake or crack in the sun? And as much as many of us enjoy the utter silence of an EV motor, Ford could embed a device that simulates the growl of the Mustang engine, an option for traditional automotive enthusiasts.
And who knows? An EV incarnation of the original Mustang might be even more successful than the original. After all, the new Top Gun: Maverick achieved a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while its predecessor tallied a mere 58 percent. So too does Ford have the opportunity to create an even more popular Mustang that would reach a wider audience in a new era of consumer transportation.