Rebecca and Shane Phillips are accustomed to getting looks when driving around California in their 1985 Mercury Colony Park or 1978 Lincoln Continental with longhorns on the front. But the newest head turner in their collection has been somewhat unexpected.
“The looks we’re getting are pretty neat. Everybody I’ve run into they’re like, ‘I’ve never seen something like this,'” said Rebecca, 31. “It’s always fun to drive by and somebody gets surprised about what it actually is and what it looks like.”
It’s not a classic vehicle, sports car or electric vehicle. It’s the new 2022 Ford Maverick, a small pickup truck that recently went on sale as the automaker’s least expensive vehicle in its entire lineup of cars and trucks at about $20,000.
While the vehicle has only been on sale for slightly over a month, Ford Motor says the compact truck – about the length of a Toyota full-size sedan but priced at far less than that and many other smaller cars – is already succeeding in attracting new, younger and more cost-conscious buyers like the Phillips’.
“We really are seeing a new customer coming into Ford. And that was really our ambition. We fabric was to appeal to a younger, more diverse customer. And we’re certainly seeing that,” Todd Eckert, Ford truck marketing manager, told CNBC.
Ford sold more than 4,100 Mavericks during the vehicle’s first full month of sales in October. Eckert said the company will continue to ramp-up production of the truck at the automaker’s Hermosillo plant in Mexico.
The importance of Maverick isn’t just about sales, but in attracting new customers to Ford. It may act as a gateway vehicle for customers to step into larger, pricier Ford pickups such as the midsize Ranger and full-size F-150.
Early Maverick buyers are skewing younger and more female than the traditionally male-dominated truck market, according to Ford.
Ford said a quarter of the Maverick’s buyers are women compared with 84% for full-size pickups, according to J.D. Power. The company reports more than a quarter of buyers also are between 18 and 35 years old – double the industry average for that age group. The average age of a new vehicle buyer is 48, according to J.D. Power.
The Phillips’ said they aren’t “big truck people” or even new car people but they were attracted to the Maverick because of its price, features and fuel economy.
It’s a similar story for Christopher Molloy II, who purchased the Maverick as his first new vehicle in early October. He traded in a compact Chevy Cruze sedan for the pickup.
“I wasn’t first looking for a Maverick. I didn’t know it existed,” said the 23-year-old Oregonian. “I was looking for more SUV-type. I wasn’t really expecting to get a new truck because they’re so expensive until I saw the Maverick was coming out.”
Ford surprised many with the Maverick’s low price as well as its standard 2.5-liter hybrid engine that can achieve more than 40 mpg during city driving. A Maverick with an optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that gets a combined 26 mpg combined, including 30 mpg highway and 23 mpg city, starts at about $21,000.
The top vehicles Maverick buyers also look at are other small pickups such as the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger as well as small crossovers and even the Honda Civic sedan, according to auto research firm Edmunds.
‘Hit the target’
The lower pricing is a welcomed change for consumers, as vehicle prices reach record highs of roughly $44,000, including a rapidly rising offering of pricey pickup trucks that can top more than $100,000.
“In 25 years of being in this business, I don’t know that I’ve seen a manufacturer bring a product out that hit the target this well,” said Derek Lee, general manager of Long McArthur Ford in Kansas. “What we are seeing in buyers is a younger buyer. We’re seeing first-time car buyers. We are having import car buyers.”
The early average price customers are paying for the Maverick is $29,749, according to Cox Automotive. That includes dealers and customers selecting higher priced trims and options on the truck.
Lee said the dealership has more than 400 Mavericks on order. He said initial demand is the highest he’s seen for the store, which specializes in larger Super Duty pickups.
Keeping prices low
The Phillips’ and Molloy said dealers didn’t mark up the price on their Mavericks, even though it’s a new vehicle and inventory levels at near-record lows due to an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips.
Some dealers, who can legally sell a car for whatever price they choose above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, have been exploiting the low inventory levels and marking up vehicles thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, according to reports and dealer websites.
The Maverick hasn’t been completely free of markups. Lee said his dealership will not mark up a Maverick if it’s ordered by a customer, but if someone cancels their order and it goes on the dealer lot, they have been pricing them about $2,500 over MSRP.
“If a vehicle gets here and somebody turns it down, yes, we look at what the market is. We still work to be the lowest price in the market,” Lee said. “I know there’s some out there at $5,000 over, I know there’s some out there at $10,000 over. We felt like $2,500 over was a very, very fair price.”
Eckert said the company can’t control how dealers price their vehicles, but they’ve communicated to dealers the importance of pricing for this vehicle and its target customers.
“We’ve talked about the overall proposition and who these cars servers are and how we want to attract them,” he said. “They control markup or no markup, but you we feel like affordability was one of the keys.”