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After Preventing Tesla From Using It, Ford To Name Brand-New Eco Car The “Model E”

When Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk first came up with the idea of calling Tesla’s first mass-market, affordable car the “Model E,” it was part of an ongoing joke with a friend. Joking around one evening, Musk’s friend noted that since Tesla used single letters to differentiate one Tesla model from another, the company could emphasise the appeal of electric cars by using the various model names to spell out the word “S.E.X.Y.”

It was an idea which stuck, and thus Musk asked Tesla to trademark both “Model E” and “Model Y” alongside the already-owned “Model S” and “Model X” trademarks. But while Tesla openly referred to its mass-market car as the Model E for some time, threats of legal action from Detroit auto giant Ford (which had already laid claim to the name) meant that Tesla had to find an alternative name instead.

Ford is planning to use Model E as the name of a new model offered in electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid variant.

The Ford Model E will be a new model offered in electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid guises.

As most will know, Tesla skillfully removed the vertical bar of a standard upper-case E, morphing the Tesla Model E into the Tesla Model ≡, a mathematical symbol which not only means “identically equal to” but which also mimics the way Tesla writes the “E” in its name.

Tesla’s cleverness ensured that the Model ≡ found itself a name pretty quickly (and Tesla is still able to spell out “SEXY,” albeit without a vertical bar in the E). And if the 350,000 + pre-order reseravations for the Tesla Model ≡  made around the world in the past week are anything to go by, the change of name from the letter E to a lesser-known mathematical symbol hasn’t hurt Tesla one bit.

But what of the “Model E,” the trademark that Ford threatened legal action against Tesla over?

Had Ford not objected, the Tesla Model 3 would be called the Tesla Model E.

Had Ford not objected, the Tesla Model 3 would be called the Tesla Model E.

For the past few years, Ford has kept us all guessing, keeping its plans for the Model E  trademark well and truly close to its chest. But as our friends at GreenCarReports detail, Ford is readying itself to use the Model E name on a brand-new car being planned for debut as a 2019 model-year car.

Why “Model E?” That’s simple as it turns out. You see, while Tesla was wanting to use the letter E to spell out “SEXY,” Ford appears to want to use “Model E” to reference the electrctrified drivetrain which will form an essential part of this new, eco-friendly model.

The keen-eyed will note we just used the word ‘electrified’ rather than ‘electric’ to reference the Model E’s drivetrain. As we’ve explained before, the differentiation between the two is an important one in the electric vehicle world. While the word ‘electric’ generally means a fully-electric vehicle, ‘electrified’ can refer to a range of different drivetrain types from electric through to to plug-in hybrid, hybrid and even internal combustion engined vehicles with engine start/stop capabilities.

In this case, explains GreenCarReports, Ford is using the Model E for the name of a brand-new vehicle which will be offered in all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid guises. Similar to the recently-launched Hyundai IONIQ, Ford’s new eco-friendly model will enable Ford to target established electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, range-extended or plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt, and conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius in one fell swoop.

Ford is trying to play catch-up in the plug-in world

Ford is trying to play catch-up in the plug-in world

Importantly for Ford, the new model would allow it to replace its aging, Ford Focus Electric hatchback and its Ford C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid models, all three of which are something of a low-volume compliance-car offering designed to ensure Ford meets its minimum zero emission vehicle targets in states like California.

Piecing together information from multiple sources, GreenCarReports says the new model will most likely be among several new vehicles planned for a new state-of-the-art production facility being planned by Ford for Mexico. So far, Ford has committed $1.6 billion to building the facility in the state of San Luis Potosi and says it should — when it’s ready to start producing cars in two years’ time — bring around 2,800 jobs to the area.

While Ford has yet to confirm its 2019 Model E will be build there, there are certainly merits to building a new facility specifically for modern electrified vehicles rather than spending billions of dollars retrofiting existing production lines — and training existing staff to cope with the specifities of electric vehicle safety.

For now, there’s little else to go on, but we’re curious as to what you think about Ford using “Model E” to reference a car that will be sold in electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid guises.

Is Ford trying to cash in on Tesla’s success? Is it just a coincidence? And do you think people will be confused between the two?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • CDspeed

    It seems pretty underhanded, they registered the name just for the sake of owning it, but the second Tesla wants it, oh no they’re keeping it. And it’ll only end up being like the Hyundai Ioniq, rather then a real electric effort, in the form of a fast sports sedan, that excites more then a quarter million people to eagerly jump in line.

  • vdiv

    Most people refer to their Model S as simply Tesla or give it their own name, doubt that would change with the Models X and 3.

    Ford needs to get serious about vehicle electrification.

    • netsurfer912

      People just said Tesla when the model S was their first popular car. There simply was no other kind of Tesla. Many still just call the Model S “Tesla”, but to refer to the Model X i think you’ll have to call it by its name. The Model 3 name I think will be quite popular, at least with the first buyers.

      Ford using Model E is just dumb, ” Model ” is Tesla’s scheme and everyone will thibk of Tesla when hearing that name. It’s not even fully electric. Ford has already adopted a name scheme of beutiful names like “S-Max”, ” C-Max”, “B-Max”, ” Fusion” … Model something is totally out of place in such a messed up system.

      • James

        [cough]… Model T, Model A… 😉

        • netsurfer912

          That was a while ago …

  • Matt Beard

    I fear that Ford will use this as a “down-sell” tool.

    “You’re interested in the Model 3? Well, we have the Model E which is much the same idea but much better as it comes from a dependable all-American company with decades of history and a whole dealer network – look at these details for the all-electric model… just like the Model 3”

    “… no, sorry, you can’t order one of those just yet, they’re being launched next year but we can sell you the plug-in hybrid version which will still do 95% of all your trips under electric power and yet you can drive all the way from here to the other end of the country using the built-in gas engine if you want… you can’t do that in a Model 3!”

    “Nice… now you have picked the colour and trim… are you sure you are happy to have to plug it in EVERY night? AND pay for the home charger… AND pay to maintain that (which will require regular visits from a specialised electrician)… it would be a couple of thousand cheaper too if you just go for the standard hybrid…”

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