Ford Capri to return as an electric SUV? No way – it has to be a two-door coupé like the original
Is Ford about to revisit its past by relaunching the Capri name on an electric vehicle (EV)? Back in 1969 at its launch, the original Capri two-door coupé was “The Car You’ve Always Promised Yourself” according to Ford’s advertising department, yet the name had been used before, as a 1961 Ford Consul Capri and as a 1952 Lincoln Capri, so is history about to repeat itself?
Certainly, the rumour machine was put onto a fast spin cycle when Amko Leenarts, Ford’s European design head, recently admitted he would love to bring back the Capri name in Europe. Ford has already repurposed its famous Mustang nameplate on the back of the US-built Mach-E-branded electric car range introduced in 2021, so there is some modern history here, too.
Ford remained tight-lipped on rumours that the Capri name would be making a reappearance. “There is media speculation about future products which we do not comment on. We have just revealed our new all-electric Ford Explorer for Europe, which we are very excited about, and Ford is proud of the success of our Mustang Mach-E – representing two iconic electric vehicles in the market. We will present the electric Ford Puma and a fourth electric vehicle in 2024,” said a spokesman.
Ironically the original Capri was seen at the time as the “European Mustang”. Both the Capri Mk1 and original 1964 Mustang were designed by the same man, Philip Thomas Clark.
Capri as a single model name was a fantastic experiment, however, selling almost 400,000 in its first two years and almost 1.9 million by the time production ended in 1986; no car company, including Ford, has achieved this kind of sales success or brand recognition for a coupé before or since.
And it was former Ford chief executive Alan Mulally who said that Ford shouldn’t throw away car badges, which have had years of marketing effort and spend poured in, as he saved the US-only Taurus. Ford in Europe, stung by criticism that it is dropping two of the UK’s favourite car names, Fiesta and Focus, could be thinking that reviving the widely recognised and loved Capri name would at least provide some misdirection and, who knows, maybe lightning might strike twice.
Not only that, Ford’s recently established electric-car division, called Model e, has a new set of senior executives recruited from advertising agencies and even IKEA, so while the past might not mean much to them, they are all of a certain age where the Capri name still has traction from TV series such as Minder, Only Fools And Horses and The Professionals.
“We are a company absolutely totally committed to change the way it does business… [we’re] building a [new] business to replace the profitable thriving business in Europe,” said Martin Sander, general manager of Model e in Europe, at the end of last year as he introduced three new, then-unnamed, battery-electric vehicles at a new $2 billion EV build facility in Cologne, Germany. These vehicles will need to hit the ground running if Ford is to live up to its targets of growing EV sales from last year’s annual total of 25,000 to 80,000 in only 18 months and to 600,000 each year in 2026.
So, which of the three would be the most likely to get the Capri badging?
The first contender could be a battery-electric version of the Puma crossover, which would be built at Ford’s Romanian factory in Craiova. Yet this seems unlikely, as the Puma name still enjoys good sales and excellent recognition in Europe.
The first Cologne-built EV now has a name, Explorer, another revived name redolent for being the best-selling SUV in the US for many years before a 1990s scandal of roll-over accidents and delaminated Firestone tyres saw the public move away from the old-fashioned Ford. Its EV replacement, launched this week and based on Volkswagen’s MEB all-electric platform and drivetrains which underpin the VW ID.3 and ID.4, is somewhere between the two in size with up to 335bhp and 402lb ft with four-wheel drive. Rear-drive models with 168 and 282bhp will follow after this year’s Explorer launch.
Among the usual random word generator of design language, there will be four new headings: Adventurous Spirit; Ultimate Outdoor; Wild Performance; and Urban Escape. Speaking to Autocar magazine, design chief Leenarts explained that the Explorer fitted into the first category, but added that Ford would be looking to redeploy other historic nameplates on future models, saying: “I think in general the public loves that we are bringing nameplates to new territories.”
That’s not quite how the redeployment of the hairy-chested Mustang name on the electric Mach-E has gone down and one Ford insider speculated that, should Capri be relaunched on something completely inappropriate, “there’s a danger we’ll be hated by everyone of a certain age group”.
So, a special version of the Explorer then? Or perhaps on the second, larger VW MEB-based vehicle out of Cologne which is still without a name or shape? Either way it would have to be a proper coupé, with two doors even, but whether that would be “The Car You Always Promised Yourself” is very much in the balance. Ford’s model planners will be looking at the reaction to this rumour very closely indeed.
Your Ford Capri memories: ‘Fun to drive, lusty engine and simple to maintain’