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By now the rules have been reinforced for years. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety assigns a score for certain safety metrics. The Top Safety Pick award comes in two tiers and because of this one deficiency, the Ford Mustang Mach-E does not earn the Top Safety Pick tier. 

For the Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must get good ratings in six crashworthiness tests

An image of a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E outdoors.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E | Ford

To win the 2021 Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must get good ratings in six crashworthiness tests. The tests are driver and passenger-side small overlap front crash, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints. Besides these crash test metrics good or acceptable headlights, and a front crash prevention system earns extra ratings. 

To get a “Plus” added to a Top Safety Pick good or acceptable headlights must be available for every trim in a model lineup. For the Mach-E three of its five trims come with LED projector headlights that are rated “good.” But two trims; the Select and California Route 1 packages, get a marginal rating.

The Mach-E gets a Top Safety Pick, but not a Top Safety Pick +

A blue electric Ford Mustang Mach-E is seen at the 2020 New England Auto Show Press Preview at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center
The Ford Mustang Mach-E | Paul Marotta/Getty Images

While the Mach-E gets a Top Safety Pick award, it does not earn a Top Safety Pick +. The IIHS says that these headlights “provide inadequate illumination on some curves.” This is confusing because these two trims are not the cheapest models available.  

So what gives? Here’s what each of the trim levels of the Mustang Mach-E retail for. At the top is the First Edition for $61,000. Next up are the California Route 1 at $49,800 and Premium at $47,000. Both the GT and Select trims retail for $42,895 each. 

With this amount of spread between trims, one would think Ford could squeeze the LED headlights into both the California and Select models? Without knowing the cost to Ford for the higher-rated LED headlights, let’s just take a stab and say $100 more?

Who makes the decision at Ford “inadequate” headlights are fine? 

A Ford Mustang Mach-E charging on display
The Ford Mustang Mach-E all-electric vehicle on display | Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

If Ford just doubles the price to the consumer that would make the California package $50,000 and the Select $43,095. We get it; that extra $200 punches one model into the $50-thou column and the other into the $43-thou column. But from a safety standpoint, who makes the decision that inadequate headlights are fine to keep the MSRP under certain caps? 

Granted, all Mustang Mach-E models get the Top Safety Pick, and three of the five get the “Plus.” But two of them don’t because the headlights are “inadequate illumination.” And that’s because of the perceived psychological assumption buyers will want it more because it’s advertised under certain price thresholds.  

It seems like a slippery slope. Essentially, Ford is choosing not to provide the best lighting it makes across all models and lines. Even though the Ford Media Center has touted that “Safety Is Priority One.”


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