Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) took the wraps off of its long-awaited 2021 Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle on Sunday night. The Mach-E is a sleek, fully electric five-passenger crossover with styling -- and performance, Ford says -- inspired by the Mustang pony car.

With a starting price under $50,000 before tax incentives, it's a compelling package that should put Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and the rest of the industry on notice. Here's what we know and why Ford investors should pay close attention to this new vehicle's launch.

A bright-blue 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, a high-performance electric crossover SUV.

Ford's executive chairman, Bill Ford, and actor Idris Elba revealed the Ford Mustang Mach-E at an event in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

What we know about the Mustang Mach-E

You've probably seen the specs by now, but here are the high points:

  • It's all electric, built on a brand-new Ford electric-vehicle architecture that was developed by a small "skunkworks" team in Detroit.
  • It will be available with choice of standard-range (75.7 kilowatt-hour) or extended-range (98.8 kWh) battery packs.
  • It's available in single-motor (rear-wheel-drive) and dual-motor (all-wheel-drive) configurations.
  • A single-motor Mach-E with the larger battery pack will have an EPA-rated range of at least 300 miles.
  • The interior is minimalist, Tesla style, with big touchscreens.
  • The Mach-E will be the first Ford to get the company's new Sync 4 infotainment system.
  • It'll be available in four trims -- Select, Premium, California Route 1, and GT. There will also be a limited-run First Edition model with special trim and features and a unique Mustang color: Grabber Blue.

Officially, Ford is saying that the Mach-E will start "between $40,000 and $50,000" before a $7,500 federal tax credit. But a series of Ford web pages describing the individual trims that were leaked last week tell us that the lowest-tier Select trim, with an EPA range of around 230 miles, 0-to-60 times in the mid-5-second range, and a single rear-wheel-drive motor, will start at $43,895. That's an aggressive price, but CEO Jim Hackett said that the Mach-E will be profitable from Day One, in part because it was designed to be easy to build.

According to the leaked pages, the Premium model, with at least 300 miles of EPA-rated range, will start at $50,600. Trims will top out at just over $60,000 for the high-performance GT model, with all-wheel-drive and a 0-to-60 time in the "mid-3-second" neighborhood.

A view of the front seat and dashboard of a Mach-E, showing a large touchscreen in the center stack.

The Mach-E's interior shows Tesla's strong influence, with hints of classic Mustang themes. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

Ford is taking reservations now -- a $500 deposit is required -- but buyers will have to wait a while: Production of the Mustang Mach-E at Ford's factory in Cuautitlán, Mexico, won't begin until the fourth quarter of 2020.

Why is Ford calling this thing a Mustang?

If you've been listening closely to Ford executives over the last couple of years, it's not surprising that this new model is being presented as part of the "Mustang family." Global markets chief Jim Farley said almost two years ago that Ford's first long-range electric vehicle would "stir the soul," with "thrilling performance" inspired by the Mustang.

Ford could have gone with a simpler idea for its first long-range electric vehicle, a value-priced model similar in concept to Volkswagen's ID.3. That was actually the original plan, Ford insiders say -- until Ford decided that it needed to offer something more than just a product that didn't use gasoline.

Way back in 2016, Ford said that it planned to spend most of its future-product efforts on vehicles in what it calls its "profit pillars" -- pickups, commercial vehicles, SUVs, Lincoln-brand luxury vehicles, and performance models. Ford's planned hybrid and electric vehicles will fit into one (or more) of those categories and will offer unique advantages that make the electric drivetrain a positive selling point. For example, a key selling point with the upcoming hybrid F-150 pickup will be that it can supply electricity from outlets in the truck's bed, acting as a portable generator. The Mach-E's key selling point, of course, is the combination of Mustang-like performance with a crossover SUV's practicality, enabled by the low-profile electric drivetrain and battery pack.

But why did Ford use the Mustang name? To ensure that Ford fans and newcomers to the brand in the U.S., China, Europe, and elsewhere all got the message. As long as the production model delivers on the performance, it'll be fine.

A red Mach-E viewed from the side. A woman is standing in front of the vehicle.

Another view of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

Why is this a big deal for Ford investors?

It might be easy to dismiss the Mach-E as a niche product for performance-minded tech enthusiasts, a sort of "Tesla for the mainstream." But look deeper: This isn't a one-off. It's the first of a series of electric Fords that will arrive over the next few years, representing a total investment of around $11 billion.

That could be money well spent, or it could be a boondoggle for the Blue Oval if the new electric Fords miss their marks. It's probably too early to declare whether the Mach-E is a hit or a miss, but early reactions have mostly been very positive, and -- on paper, at least -- Ford seems to have hit all the right points.

Long story short: I think it'll do well -- and I think Ford shareholders should be happy about what it tells us about the other upcoming electric Fords.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.