DETROIT – Ford Motor’s new Maverick truck will be the first pickup in America with a standard gas-electric hybrid engine when it goes on sale this fall starting at about $20,000.
The company unveiled the compact pickup Tuesday as the smallest vehicle in its highly profitable truck lineup, slotting below the full-size Ford F-150 and midsize Ranger pickups. The Maverick is about three feet shorter in length and seven inches lower than an F-150, Ford said.
Compact pickups are an untapped and unproven market in the U.S. Ford’s expansion into the segment comes as sales of trucks have skyrocketed in recent years, with purchase consideration surpassing that of cars last year, according to Cox Automotive.
Expanding Ford’s truck business has been a goal under CEO Jim Farley, who is restructuring the automaker’s operations to focus on its strengths such as pickups.
The name Maverick is not new to Ford. It produced a two-door sedan with that name from 1969 to 1979. The company also used the name Maverick in Australia, China and Europe for several vehicles.
Ford expects the Maverick to attract new buyers to the brand as well as the extremely loyal pickup truck segment, according to officials.
“Maverick challenges the status quo and the stereotypes of what a pickup truck can be,” Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, said in a statement. “We believe it will be compelling to a lot of people who never before considered a truck.”
Several Ford officials during a media briefing called the Maverick a “truck for people who never knew they wanted a truck.”
The vehicle is a standard five-passenger, four-door pickup unlike other Ford trucks such as the F-150 that start with two doors and only seat two or three people.
Ford said the Maverick will come standard with a hybrid gas-electric powertrain that is expected to have 500 miles of range on a single tank of gas. The hybrid vehicle is expected to achieve an EPA-estimated 40 mpg fuel economy in city driving, according to Ford. The company declined to release total and highway fuel economy estimates.
Chris Mazur, chief engineer of the pickup, said the 40 mpg city was Ford’s “rallying cry” for the vehicle. He said fuel economy is a major consideration for smaller pickups.
“We’re bringing it to win,” he told CNBC. “It’s a white space vehicle going into a new segment.”
Cox Automotive reports cargo space is the top factor – by a wide margin – for consumers who would consider a compact truck over a more traditional SUV, followed by fuel efficiency and price.
Analysts have said the Maverick would need to be priced well below the Ford Ranger and other midsize pickups to be competitive in the U.S. market. A two-door version of the Ranger starts at about $25,000. A four-door model starts at about $27,000, according to Ford’s website.
The Maverick will start at $19,995, according to Ford.
A mix of car and truck
Unlike Ford’s other pickups, the Maverick will be assembled through a process the auto industry calls “unibody” construction. The process, which is how cars are produced, is where the frame/body of the vehicle are one. That compares to “body-on-frame” construction for most pickups and some vans and SUVs, which combines the body and frame of the vehicles toward the end of production.
The most notable unibody pickup currently on the market is the midsize Honda Ridgeline. Such construction typically allows for a smoother ride, however less capability than a traditional truck.
The smaller size of the Maverick will allow for easier access to the vehicle’s bed and cabin compared with larger pickup trucks, Ford said.
The vehicle’s standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain is rated at 191 horsepower and 155 pound feet of torque. A 2.0-liter gas engine rated at 250 horsepower and 277 pound feet of torque also will be available.
The pickup is being produced at Ford’s Hermosillo plant in Mexico alongside its new Ford Bronco Sport SUV. The vehicles share the same base, also known as a platform.
Compact vehicles with pickup beds have come and gone several times throughout the American auto industry.
Most notably, the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino starting in the 1950s and 1960s, and, more recently, the Subaru Baja from the 2000s. Hyundai is entering the small U.S. pickup market with the Santa Cruz, a small SUV-like vehicle that’s scheduled to go on sale this summer.
Ford expects to differentiate the Maverick from previous vehicles as well as the Santa Cruz by making it a more traditional truck. It’s a plan similar to its recently unveiled electric F-150 pickup truck.
“It’s unmistakably a Ford truck,” said Heath Hilliard, Maverick creative exterior designer.