Home U.S 2022 Ford Maverick pickup faces big challenges, potential big payoff

2022 Ford Maverick pickup faces big challenges, potential big payoff

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The cover of a 1979 Ford Maverick brochure.

Ford, the automaker synonymous with big pickups, is about to introduce a new compact truck, one considerably smaller than its popular midsize Ranger.

The little pickup is likely to be called “Maverick,” a name Ford last used for a popular compact car it built in the 1970s. It should go on sale in the third quarter of this year.

The plan isn’t without risk. American buyers have repeatedly spurned pickups engineered and sized like the 2022 Maverick, dismissing them as not being “real” pickups because they’re small, less capable and look cute or goofy rather than tough.

A 1972 Ford Maverick Grabber.

Small pickups built on car-type, or unibody, platforms have an uninterrupted history of disappointing in the U.S. Examples — largely forgotten — include the Volkswagen Rabbit pickup and Subaru’s Brat and Baja. The bigger unibody Honda Ridgeline — a midsize like the Ranger — has won awards, but never sold anywhere near as well as competitors built on traditional pickup chassis.

But if any automaker can make this work, it’s probably Ford. Nobody knows pickup buyers better than Ford, whose F-150 full-size pickup has been America’s best-selling pickup for 44 years. If the Maverick takes off, you can expect other brands to develop competitors, creating a market for small pickups.

Vacationing teenagers gather around the new subcompact Ford Maverick, which was put on display without advance fanfare in Palm Springs, Calif., March 31, 1969. The car, which landed in dealer showrooms on April 17, 1969, was designed to compete against Volkswagen.

Officially, Ford won’t confirm the new 2022 Maverick exists. Automakers like to treat plans for introducing new vehicles like the invasion of Normandy, but everybody knows the Maverick is coming.

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What we know about the 2022 Ford Maverick

A photo of what is believed to be the 2022 Ford Maverick pickup truck which Ford won’t confirm the new truck exists.
  • It will be based on the same front- or all-wheel-drive chassis, or architecture, as the Ford Bronco and Escape compact SUVs.
  • It will seat five and be offered with a four-door, crew cab interior.
  • It’ll be assembled alongside the Bronco Sport in Hermosillo, Mexico.
  • Four-wheel drive is a given; front-wheel drive for a low-priced base model is possible.
  • Sales are expected to begin third quarter, 2021.
  • It’s undergoing final tests now. Camouflaged models are increasingly common around Ford engineering HQ in Dearborn.
  • Prices will start below the Ranger, maybe as low as $20,000.
  • Well-equipped models will cost thousands more.
  • It’s an example of what Ford calls “white space vehicles” expected to help offset sales lost when the automaker stopped building sedans.
  • Ford intends to give it more hauling and off-road capacity than previous small pickups, which were widely dismissed as toys, not tools.
  • Ford has a history of vehicles named for types of horses — Mustang, Bronco, Pinto. “Maverick” applies to any unbranded, free-roaming range animal, but usually cattle.
  • A mustang, by some definitions, is a maverick horse.
  • The original Ford Maverick badge was a stylized steer’s head, with horns.
  • “Maverick” was also the title of a popular 1957-62 TV Western series that at various times starred James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore and Roger Colbert.

Hyundai Santa Cruz joins the party

Hyundai will unveil a pickup based on a similar architecture April 15. Called the Santa Cruz, it’s expected to be midsize, so bigger and more expensive than the Maverick.

Teaser image of 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup.

The Santa Cruz is the auto industry’s worst kept secret. Hyundai unveiled a radical-looking Santa Cruz concept vehicle at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The concept was an immediate hit, with journalists and show-goers calling on Hyundai to build it, despite such vehicles’ checkered sales history.

Hyundai spent years researching before greenlighting the Santa Cruz. It will be built in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside the Tucson SUV that uses the same architecture. Sales probably will begin this summer or early fall.

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