How Odd is a Ford Mustang SUV? Here Are Weird Automotive Spinoffs

Ford has taken the bold step of branding its new battery-powered SUV as a Mustang, the first time in 55 years that something other than a sporty car has been blessed with the “pony” designation.

But don’t think the move is unique. The auto industry is filled with attempts to cash in on famous names – or popular models – over the years.Some of these spinoffs have been winners. Others came off as clumsy, inauthentic or misguided.

Led by the electric Mustang Mach-E SUV, expect to see a few more spinoffs and adaptations play out as the media preview days of the Los Angeles Auto Show unfold early this week. The public portion of the show starts Friday and runs through Dec. 1

The timing for new automotive iterations couldn’t be better.

“Auto sales are slowing, and as a result, automakers are finding creative ways to carve niches for themselves in order to stand out,” says Jessica Caldwell, auto industry analyst for car-buying site

Patching together a spinoff of an existing vehicle is generally cheaper than creating an all-new car. Plus, a variation on a famous name makes selling the vehicle easier, since marketers don’t need to teach the public a new, unknown moniker and hope it sticks at car buying time.

That likely explains what Ford has in mind when it came up with Mach-E, a wordplay on the Mustang Mach 1, a performance version introduced in 1969 at the dawn of the muscle-car era.

With the Mach-E, Ford is hoping to generate the kind of auto-show excitement that surrounded last year’s spinoff hit that blended a Jeep Wrangler off-roader and a pickup truck, creating the Jeep Gladiator. That model is credited by Fiat Chrysler for drawing customers to showrooms.

Some automakers haven’t been content to stop with just one spinoff.
Toyota cashed in on the success of its gas-sipping hybrid, the Prius, after gas prices soared in 2008 by creating a Prius V wagon, Prius C subcompact and a plug-in version, the Prius Prime.
The family has since seen some outcasts. Toyota killed off Prius V in 2017 and Prius C is on death row. Small-car sales have waned, but perhaps more importantly, Toyota has spread its hybrid technology to more of its mainstream cars and SUVs, meaning it doesn’t just have to use the Prius name to connote amazing fuel economy.