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Return of the Compact Pickup

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June 8, 2021—Today marks the highly anticipated debut of the compact pickup offering from Ford—the Maverick.

Yes, the Maverick was also a '70s-era coupe from Ford, but the company has brought the nameplate back for this smaller pickup based on the new Bronco platform. Ford is not alone in its thinking. A new crop of compact pickups are popping up to meet consumers in this ever-changing vehicle market of the 2020s.

Maverick, and Its Peers

It's true, Ford proclaims in its press release about the Maverick pickup. Made for the 2022 model year, the truck will be a notable addition to the company's lineup. Exact specs aren't yet confirmed, but Car and Driver says that the truck will have a unibody frame. And because it shares a platform with the Bronco, the outlet assumes that powertrain options will be similar. That means a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine at the base and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder (both turbocharged).

Most are predicting an all-wheel-drive setup over a selectable four-wheel-drive option.

The Maverick is joined by the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which is more of a ute-style pickup (think Subaru Baja). Stellantis's Dodge has produced a Ram 700 compact pickup for Latin American markets. Other OEMs have similar offerings, but the U.S. market isn't awash in compact trucks.

Cox Automotive recently conducted a small survey to gauge interest in the segment. Few consumers in the survey were even aware of this emerging kind of vehicle. Those who would be interested in a small truck over an SUV wanted cargo space above all other factors.

Niche Offering

It's not clear that the compact pickup segment will be a sales slam dunk, but there is a strong following for the vehicles. The much-beloved Ranger left U.S. markets in 2011 and then reemerged later as a midsized pickup to compete with the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. Jeep launched its Gladiator variant of the Wrangler to compete in that segment as well. Nissan's steadfast, smaller Frontier pickup has lagged behind other OEMs in sales.

Mid-sized and full-sized pickups represent huge sales gains for automakers. Consumers are buying more trucks than cars, a stat that was marked for the first time in April 2020. So it makes sense for Ford to experiment a little with the Maverick, which could look and feel like an updated version of the older Ranger models. Also, Ford has already committed to discontinuing sedans altogether.

The Maverick could also occupy an affordability segment, in particular as mid-sized pickups with offroad features grow in price and full-sized pickups become luxury vehicles approaching six-figure purchases. The Maverick is expected to be in the mid-$20,000 range. Only time will tell if this is one too many pickup variants.

Image: Ford

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