November 30, 2021

Ford’s Maverick Truck Reverses Trend Toward Hulking Pickups

Pickup trucks in the U.S. have trended for years toward the bigger, brawnier and more expensive. Now, Ford Motor Co. is reversing course, with plans to sell a diminutive hybrid truck with a price tag—and gas mileage—similar to that of a compact car.

Ford on Tuesday revealed the Maverick, a pickup truck with a body comparable in size to a compact SUV, such as a Ford Escape. Its starting price of $19,995 will make it the least-expensive vehicle in Ford’s U.S. lineup when it goes on sale this fall.

The nation’s No. 2 auto maker is betting that some people who own sedans or small sport-utility vehicles would like the versatility of having a flatbed, but don’t have the budget or garage space for a big, gas-guzzling truck, such as Ford’s F-150 or midsize Ranger pickup.

“I think we’ll get a lot of first-time truck buyers, people who really didn’t consider a truck before, because it was either out of reach or it was too big for them,” Ford product chief

Hau Thai-Tang

said. He said he expects the Maverick will appeal to a more diverse set of customers, including women.

Pickup trucks have long been a strength for Ford and rivals

General Motors Co.

and

Stellantis N.V.

’s Ram brand.

But in recent years, they have become more central to their strategies, after the companies largely abandoned the market for sedans and small hatchbacks, which had been losing money.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Would you consider buying a smaller pickup truck? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.

Small pickup trucks are popular in many overseas markets but not in the U.S., where big, hulking trucks like the F-150, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado dominate roadways. Some of those models are more than 3 feet longer than the Maverick.

The Maverick will be built on the same basic frame as Ford’s Focus car. The frame also underpins the company’s popular Escape SUV and the new Bronco Sport, released last year. It will be built at Ford’s factory in Hermosillo, Mexico. The vehicle will come standard with a hybrid system, which saves fuel by combining a gas engine with a small battery pack and electric motor. Ford says the system will deliver about 40 miles per gallon in city driving.

Ford recently raised its planned spending on electric-vehicle development to $30 billion through 2025. But it also is offering hybrids like the Maverick, a strategy that diverts from GM and other car companies that are largely skipping hybrids to focus on vehicles that run on battery power only.

Petite pickup trucks such as the Chevy S-10, Dodge Dakota and an earlier iteration of Ford’s Ranger were big sellers in the U.S. in the 1990s. But sales dropped sharply in the following decade and buyers gravitated to bigger trucks, encouraged by cheaper gas prices and low interest rates. GM, Ford and Dodge’s then-owner Chrysler Group LLC eventually phased out their small trucks.

In recent years GM and Ford added back more choice to their truck lineups with new midsize trucks, such as GM’s Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, and with the reintroduction of the Ford Ranger. That gave buyers a more-manageable size and decent towing capability. Still, those models are large by ’90s small-truck standards, and typically sell for far higher than $30,000.

Ford’s 2020 F-Series Super Duty



Photo:

rebecca cook/Reuters

With the Maverick, Ford is testing whether the appeal of the pickup body style can be expanded further down the size and price scale. It will be unusually small and inexpensive for a pickup in U.S. showrooms. Its only direct competitor in the category will be Hyundai Motor Co.’s Santa Cruz, which goes on sale this summer. Hyundai hasn’t disclosed pricing.

Like Ford, the Korean auto maker sees a market for buyers who want the flexibility to haul gear for outdoor sports or home projects, but also want a vehicle that is easier to drive and park in suburban or urban areas.

“We found that there is actually a big potential for these urban buyers looking for something smaller, for this recreational-lifestyle vehicle that right now the market doesn’t have a solution for,” said Gil Castillo, senior group manager for advanced vehicle strategy at Hyundai Motor North America.

The Maverick is Ford’s attempt at filling a gap in its U.S. lineup for an entry-level model. Until a few years ago, Ford customers on a budget could choose from small cars, such as the Fiesta and Focus, both of which started at less than $20,000.

The 2019 Ford Ranger



Photo:

erik s. lesser/EPA/Shutterstock

Ford executives have said they wanted to divert capital from those vehicles to more lucrative pickups and SUVs, as well as expand investments on new technologies, such as electric vehicles. The strategy has helped Ford lift its profit margin, executives have said.

Still, many Ford dealers have complained that dropping those models left them without much to offer buyers on a budget.

Dealer

Ed Jolliffe

said sales of vehicles below $25,000 have dried up at his Ford dealership in suburban Detroit. He expects the Maverick to attract buyers who might have left the brand because there weren’t options in their price range.

“People will always choose a vehicle with more space if they can afford it,” he said.

Jessica Caldwell, an executive director at car-shopping site Edmunds.com, said Ford’s strategy to attract entry-level buyers with a truck is unusual and hinges on offering features those buyers can’t find today, such as the ability to tow.

“No one has really made this small-truck segment work long-term, so that is a risk,” she said.

Ford unveiled the battery-powered version of its F-150 pickup, joining other auto makers in the nascent electric-truck segment. The F-150 Lightning undercuts several rivals with a starting price around $40,000. Photo: Dominick Sokotoff/Zuma Press

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Related Posts

Former Fox News Anchor Ed Henry Sues Channel’s CEO Over Misconduct Allegations

July 1, 2021

July 1, 2021

Former Fox News anchor Ed Henry sued the cable channel Wednesday, accusing his former employer of defaming him in a...

U.S. Home Prices Push to Record High, Slowing Pace of Purchases

May 21, 2021

May 21, 2021

America’s home-buying frenzy is cooling off for the first time since it heated up last year, as limited inventory and...

GlaxoSmithKline Talks Up Growth Prospects as Activist Investor Elliott Looms

June 23, 2021

June 23, 2021

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC GSK 1.99% pledged to accelerate growth and gave further details of the long-planned separation of its...

Hackers Linked to SolarWinds Return With Phishing Attack, Microsoft Says

May 28, 2021

May 28, 2021

The Russia-linked hackers behind the cyberattack on SolarWinds SWI -0.72% have returned, launching a phishing attack targeting approximately 3,000 email...

Ineligible Nursing Home Managers Received Covid-19 Bonuses

June 6, 2021

June 6, 2021

Eight of the nine senior managers who earned too much to qualify for Covid-19-related hazard pay at New Jersey’s state-run veterans nursing...

Despite Pressure, Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Drug Still a Likely Blockbuster

June 29, 2021

June 29, 2021

American taxpayers are set to foot most of the bill for Biogen ’s new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, and investors...

Renewable-Fuel Push Drives Soyoil Prices to Record High

June 6, 2021

June 6, 2021

Prices for soybean oil shot to an all-time high last week, powered by growing demand from the biofuels sector. Soybean-oil...

This Year’s Influx of Directors Starts Shift in Boardroom Diversity

June 16, 2021

June 16, 2021

The biggest U.S. companies sharply increased the number of new Black and Latino directors named to their boards this spring,...

Federal Judge Stops Biden Administration From Blocking New Oil and Gas Leases

June 15, 2021

June 15, 2021

A federal judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration from pausing new oil and gas leases...

Altria-Juul Deal Goes to Trial

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

Altria MO 0.35% Group Inc. and the Federal Trade Commission are squaring off over allegations that the Marlboro maker engaged...

Tesla to Store China Data Locally in New Data Center

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

SHANGHAI— Tesla Inc. TSLA -0.29% said all data generated from cars it sold in China will be stored in a...

Biden’s Budget: What to Expect and What It Means

May 27, 2021

May 27, 2021

The White House is set to release its multitrillion-dollar fiscal year 2022 budget Friday. Here is a guide to what...

ECB to Keep Monetary Stimulus in Place

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

FRANKFURT—The European Central Bank upgraded its economic outlook for the eurozone but said it would keep its aggressive monetary stimulus...

Tesla’s China Sales Bounce Back Despite Consumer Backlash

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

SHANGHAI— Tesla Inc.’s TSLA 1.01% sales in China rebounded in May after a short slump, a boost for the electric-vehicle...

PE-Backed Hospital Chain Got Help From Major Landlord as Losses Mounted

June 18, 2021

June 18, 2021

Medical Properties Trust Inc. MPW -4.89% is a little-known real-estate investor that helps private-equity firms cash in on their hospital...