There’s a lot of hype around Ford’s upcoming electric F150 pickup truck, and there should be. Pickups represent the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., and the F150 is the best-selling vehicle in America, period. The electric F150 is the greener, more progressive pickup truck America needs right now.
But today, Ford is announcing another new pickup, designed specifically for people who never knew they wanted a pickup. It’s called the Ford Maverick. Smaller than the F150, it’s a five-seater, hybrid truck that’s capable of getting 40 miles per gallon, with a dreamy 4.5-foot-long bed designed for DIY projects, camping trips, and Costco runs. It has all the internal seating space of a crossover with the handy, open storage of a pickup. And here’s the kicker: The Ford Maverick starts at $19,995. That’s $17,000 less than the starting price of not just an electric F150, but the average vehicle sold in the United States today.
I have never dreamed of owning a pickup truck, and yet, watching Ford’s promo videos, I’ve become smitten with the Maverick. The vehicle is designed to satisfy just about every major trend with a Swiss Army Knife of solutions—from the desire to have a lighter environmental impact to Nomadlanding in a national park. “Think about all these seemingly disparate activities, and the role the vehicle plays as an actor in that play . . . to me it was screaming at me, ‘Boy it would be a lot easier to do this in a truck,'” says Jim Baumbick, VP of enterprise product line management, strategy, and planning at Ford.
No more sedans!
Last year, Ford made a bold proclamation. Since Americans were no longer buying traditional cars, the company was killing its sedan business, which had brought America ubiquitous vehicles such as the Ford Taurus. In their place, the company would build pickup trucks, crossovers, Broncos, and Mustangs—streamlining the vehicle line to only sell what people were actually buying. All of these vehicles would be built on five technological platforms to produce a few flavors of trucks and sports cars only.
With no sedan in hand, the Maverick is Ford’s attempt to sell aging millennials—home buyers with families who are turning 40—along with everyone else on the premise that a pickup truck can be the ideal do-it-all vehicle.
The fastest development in Ford’s history
Building the Maverick upon shared technology within Ford (its chassis is shared with the Bronco Sport), the company developed the Maverick 20 months faster than any vehicle in its history. Particular attention went to its “Flexbed”—the 4.5-foot open tail of the vehicle.
The Flexbed is in direct response to Ford’s own market research. As Baumbick says, people hack their cars to fit their lifestyle already. I can attest to this. Driving my first crossover, I’ve been shocked by how little I can store in it (alongside two child seats). I can’t fit my bike without removing both wheels or buying an external rack. I can’t fit my dog without putting in aftermarket harnesses, dividers, and covers. And I can’t fit any significant home improvement item I need from a store like Home Depot—be it wood planks or a replacement door.
To create the Flexbed, the Ford team mocked it up in paper and foam, like a giant craft project. This prototyping allowed them to think about how they wanted a pickup truck bed to work, and just how much of the vehicle needed to be dedicated to open space to make it worthwhile.
The company borrowed some ideas from the F150, such as a tailgate that can go down 45 degrees, allowing you to hang longer objects out the back, and power plugs so you can use it to work on location or camp out the back.
But the team added other creature comforts that would allow someone to actually reshape their truck bed into a custom storage system. “We want to create the DIY version, engage the community about how you [use] this platform as a canvas that’s designed to be hacked,” Baumbick says.
It created slots for 2x4s and 2x6s, so that you can slip in stock boards and create divider partitions, making the back your own custom storage system. It has rails that allow you to attach carabiners to hook and lock things down. And it has doored cubbies, which allow you to store small objects safely in transit.
Ford will sell official accessories for the bed, but it’s also offering instructions to get DIYers started—such as blueprints for a $40 bike rack built from a 2×4, and guidance on how to integrate your own lighting into the bed. But this bed isn’t just designed for DIYers on the ‘gram. It was also tested to hold the sort of things a sedan couldn’t, like an ATV, or dozens of bags of mulch, no hacking required.
A hybrid in an electric world
The hybrid vehicle gets 40 miles per gallon and 500 miles of range on a single tank. However, it’s not a plug-in hybrid, so there’s no electric-only mode for knocking around town. Given that most people commute an average of 32 miles a day, many car buyers can get by with charging a plug-in hybrid at home and work, rather than buying a full electric vehicle with a 300-mile range.
A $20,000 hybrid is an impressive feat by Ford, and the company is right in arguing that many people don’t want to spend the extra money to set up electric charging in their homes anyway. But the writing is on the wall that electric is the direction of this industry. Furthermore, electric car credits don’t work on hybrids. And assuming a new bill from the Biden administration passes, customers could get a $12,500 rebate on an American-built electric F150, dropping its starting price down to just around $27,000. While the Mexico-produced Maverick is an appealing, affordable little truck, it’s hard to argue against the notion that the F150 is the future-forward option, and the better value with the rebate. “I hate to say it; I wish we would have leaned into this [the Maverick] earlier,” Baumbick says.
The Maverick is out this fall, and Ford says it plans to build as many as it needs to meet demand.