The Ford Maverick Is a Revolutionary American Truck in More Ways Than One
Pickups have been in a race to be bigger, faster and more expensive. Ford's new $20K compact truck is none of those things.
When Elon Musk revealed the Cybertruck a year and a half ago, most people thought they were looking at the truck of the future (even after Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, shattered the windows with a metal orb). But while everyone has been waiting to see if the polygonal behemoth will be delivered on schedule, Ford has been quietly building a radically different truck that may mark the real turning point for the American pickup.
The truck in question is the Maverick, which was unveiled Tuesday morning. The big headline news is that it’s a compact pickup, the first real offering in that segment in the American market in years. Other trucks may be described as compact, but today’s small pickups are all midsize, and they all act like they’re full-size, because everyone wants to beat the Ford F-150 that has been the best-selling pickup since the ‘70s.
The 2022 Ford Maverick, which will go on sale this fall, has plenty of other tantalizing selling points besides the more workable size. There’s the $19,995 starting price, which is at least $5,000 cheaper than the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, current go-tos when people want a smaller truck (it’s also almost $20,000 cheaper than the most affordable Cybertruck). But despite its relatively small stature, it’s also a four-door model with room for five passengers. And then there’s the fact that it’s “the first standard full-hybrid pickup in America and the most fuel-efficient truck on the market with a targeted EPA-estimated rating of 40 mpg in the city,” according to a press release.
Among the internet denizens who deal in automotive spy shots and leaked tidbits, there have been plenty of predictions about a potential small Ford pickup. But one that comes standard as a hybrid with segment-leading fuel economy? Those traits were not high on the list.
That’s because a compact pickup doesn’t seem to make sense when pickup makers are cashing in on $60,000-plus V8 beasts that can go straight from city streets to an amateur monster truck rally. And a hybrid drivetrain (not even a plug-in hybrid) on a brand new vehicle doesn’t seem to make sense when everyone else appears to be focusing on all-electric tech, including newcomers like Tesla and Rivian that are aiming to dethrone legacy giants like Ford.
However, Ford is one of those legacy giants, as well as the king of trucks, for a reason. Its F-Series trucks make more money every year than the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL … combined. They’re not going to add a new name to their pickup lineup unless they’re sure it will work — and looking at their strategy, they seem to have something figured out others haven’t caught onto.
“The Maverick product proposition is like nothing else out there. It’s a great-looking truck featuring four doors with room for five adults, a standard full-hybrid engine with city fuel economy that beats a Honda Civic, plenty of towing and hauling for weekend trips or do-it-yourself projects, and it starts under $20,000,” Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said in a press release. “We believe it will be compelling to a lot of people who never before considered a truck.”
That’s a telling quote, even though it feels like regular marketing fluff. Ford here is directly challenging the Honda Civic, one of the best-selling cars in the country, because the affordable sedan has been slowly dying. That includes Ford’s lineup, which will soon no longer include any four-door cars (as the Fusion is discontinued). Yes, that means the new Maverick pickup truck will now be Ford’s most affordable entry-level model.
The Maverick is a continuation of the SUV and truck obsession that’s enthralled the U.S. at the detriment of the climate, but unlike most other models, this one is prioritizing a smaller footprint and better gas mileage. Those traits, together with the truck capability (a versatile bed they’re calling the “Flexbed,” 1,500 lbs. of payload, 2,000 lbs. of towing capacity with the front-wheel drive hybrid), have the ability to make this an enticing option for a diverse cross section of the country: old-school truck guys, penny pinchers who are really going to hate when gas climbs after the pandemic, young people who need an affordable car but also want one that’s new (actor Gabrielle Union is showing off the truck on her TikTok page, and Ford is using the Gen Z app too), climate-conscious buyers who can’t afford the first round of expensive all-electric trucks, city dwellers who still need to park on the street … the list goes on.
To us, the interesting part here is that the compact pickup truck is like the manual transmission: a piece of automotive design most people thought was going away, but that Ford has decided to revive. The Maverick has a much better shot than the stick shift on the Bronco, but in the end, even if it doesn’t lead to a renewal in the compact truck segment, Ford still has the tech of the F-150 and the all-electric prowess of the Lightning to lean on.
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