‘First all-electric vehicle with a Soul’: A Q&A with Mustang Mach-E Chief Program Engineer Ron Heiser

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Darren Palmer, Ford global director, battery electric vehicles, and Mustang Mach-E Chief Program Engineer Ron Heiser practice social distancing using the all-new, all-electric Mustang Mach-E.

Order banks for the all-electric Mustang Mach-E are now open in the U.S. and reservation holders are being invited to convert their reservations to an official order for the latest addition to the Mustang stable.

@FordOnline sat down with Chief Program Engineer Ron Heiser for more insight on the development of what is arguably one of the most important Ford vehicles in recent history. He also sheds some light on how the public has reacted to seeing Mustang Mach-E on the streets in person for the first time.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been with Ford for 29 years, and Mustang Mach-E is the capstone of my career. I’ve been leading the development team since its inception. With Mustang Mach-E’s level of battery-electric vehicle and connectivity technology, it has been a real learning experience for me as well.

How is the Mustang Mach-E different from other vehicle programs you’ve been involved in?
Before Mach-E, I had never been with a vehicle program where I’d been stopped while out driving a prototype by so many of the public who want to know more about it. That’s a really awesome feeling. And when I do get stopped, the feedback has been 100 percent positive.

Mustang Mach-E is definitely a contender for one of the most important vehicle launches in company history. In my view, It’s got to be up there with the launch of the original 1986 Taurus, the original 1991 Explorer, the fifth-generation 2005 Mustang and just about every F-Series launch. It falls into that category – something that really signals a different direction for Ford.

What do people ask when they stop you?
The first questions out of peoples’ mouths are usually “what is that?” and “Is it really a Mustang?” which is often followed by “This thing is beautiful.” Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been approaching me (at a respectable distance) to share how they feel about the car.

What does Mustang mean to you?
I’ve always loved Mustangs and my favorite has always been a ‘67 Mustang fastback. If I could ever pry myself away from my work, that would be the one I’d get ahold of. On average, I’ve leased a Mustang convertible two out of every three years for the past 15-20 years. When my kids were little, we were the family riding around town with top down and toddlers in car seats. My wife Karen, my now-grown kids and I all love Mustang – it has been a part of our lives.

So it was really an emotional moment for the team when this project pivoted to being a Mustang. Everything just started to click for the entire team. The studio knows what it means to be a Mustang, the engineering team knows, the design and release engineers – everyone.

We know what it takes to deliver a Mustang, and we have confidence that as great of a brand it is outside, the people inside of Ford are some of the most passionate about Mustang.

What kind of challenges did the team face when creating Mustang Mach-E?
Well, Mustang historically is associated with coupes and convertibles with throaty V8 engines. For Mustang Mach-E, we moved to both an SUV and an electric powertrain. But Mustang Mach-E is not a replacement for Mustang, but rather it’s an addition to the family. I think that made it easier and it became much more of an emotional endeavor on the program team. But that emotional connection meant there were serious consequences if we didn’t succeed. You don’t want to be the team that screws up the Mustang brand.

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Mustang Mach-E Chief Program Engineer Ron Heiser stands with wife Karen at the reveal of the latest addition to the Mustang stable.


How are people reacting to the car?
I’m on the blogs and forums and I quietly read them on a regular basis at least 3-4 times a week to see what people are saying – the vast majority are emotionally positive. They get what Ford’s trying to do. When you get the tech community saying things like “this may be the first credible all-electric competitor from a traditional OEM,” those are some great expectations that we need to live up to.

How are you making sure it lives up to the Mustang name?
We take it to a new type of extreme with Mustang Mach-E. We’re doing things that nobody’s really done in any space – such as turning drive modes into total drive experiences. These drive experiences impact how the Mustang Mach-E accelerates and decelerates with tuned pedal mapping and regenerative braking response. We have also engineered unique visual feedback from the cluster and center screen, plus unique ambient lighting and electric drive train sounds for each drive experience.

And that’s just the base model. We’ve got things coming up on the Mustang Mach-E GT that take it even further. Obviously, you have added performance, but it’s a much more aggressive experience launching next year so that Mustang vibe is going to continue to grow post-launch.

Besides its Mustang DNA, how does Mustang Mach-E play into the company’s strengths?
It aligns with our company history in that we’ve always democratized new transportation technology, going all the way back to the Model T. Ford provides products with high levels of content that just about everybody could afford, and that sentiment carries over into the features we put into the vehicles.

We are offering technologies and features you’d expect to see on much more expensive vehicles as well as the promise of over-the-air updates to ensure the car is effectively future-proofed.

It’s interesting because I’ve been asked about the price starting from the base model all the way up and I’m always curious to see what their reaction is when I tell them – it’s never as expensive as they think it’s going to be. That’s one of Ford’s strengths and I think we played It well.

Do you have a message for employees who are reading this?
It’s really gratifying to have the company behind Mustang Mach-E because you get that sense that everyone want to support it. We need all of our people to be public advocates – not only for styling and performance, but with the level of technology we’re putting in the vehicle. It’s groundbreaking for Ford, and in many cases groundbreaking for the industry. From Phone-As-A-Key, to our SYNC screen and the human machine interface that goes with it, we’ve got a well-thought-out vehicle that we need everyone to be proud of and to advocate for going forward.

With Mustang Mach-E nearing launch, what would you say to Ford’s direct competitors?
I’d tell them they better be ready because we’re going to be the first all-electric vehicle that has a soul – and that’s the soul of a Mustang.

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About Ron Heiser, Chief Program Engineer, Mustang Mach-E
Ron Heiser knew at a young age that he wanted to pursue engineering. His two main areas of interest were automotive and aviation. A University of Michigan graduate, Heiser took his first job at Boeing, before ultimately ending up at Ford Motor Company 29 years ago. He’s worked on a variety of products in his tenure at Ford, his most recent, the Mustang Mach-E. Heiser oversees the vehicle as a whole from an engineering standpoint and has been with the Mach-E since the very beginning. He refers to it as a wild ride, as he had to make fast changes as the vision changed, and he’s proud to have worked on something so new for the company – from the ground up.

“When we decided Mach-E would be part of the Mustang family, something just clicked – the studio had great ideas and we morphed this iconic product for Ford into an all-electric utility vehicle,” Heiser said. “I have so much admiration for how everyone on the Mach-E team pulled together, and am excited to be able to share this vehicle with my wife and two kids.”
 

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I’m on the blogs and forums and I quietly read them on a regular basis at least 3-4 times a week to see what people are saying – the vast majority are emotionally positive. They get what Ford’s trying to do.
Thanks for paying attention, Ron! I can't wait to get behind the wheel.
 
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jhalkias

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Nice article. We have a whole community here hoping for the reality to live up to the hype for Ford. Can't wait.
 
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