Ford CEO Jim Farley was interviewed in a New York Times article apparently devoted to praising him and the company. It was reminiscent of those segments on Good Morning America where they have healthy cooking tips sponsored by the American Egg Board and — surprise, surprise — end up recommending people incorporate eggs into meals.
But it wasn’t entirely devoid of substance, either. While pretending that Farley had just taken the job and was somehow solely responsible for a gaggle of successful debuts planned ages before he took over, NYT did mange to convince him to open up about the future of the Maverick pickup and its potential family.
The CEO said he already sees the compact truck as a winner for the brand and with good reason. Despite going against the grain of presumed American tastes, the Maverick has garnered a truly impressive amount of attention over the last week. Part of that was due to Ford’s marketing efforts. Rather than trying to target the traditional truck buyer, the manufacturer is pinging urbanites who might want to a vehicle that can handle more-modest chores and remains incredibly fuel efficient.
Larger pickups can handle things like carrying a motorcycle or heading to the store to pick up the necessities for some d0-it-yourself work. But the Maverick is supposed to excel at those tasks — leaving the truly heavy lifting to its bigger brothers yielding steeper price tags and larger motors.
“This is the product for people who never thought they wanted a truck,” Farley explained.
Ford, known for its brawny engines, made the Maverick’s base model a hybrid that goes 40 mile [sic] on a gallon of gas. The truck starts at $19,995, or nearly $10,000 less than the cheapest F-150. Hyundai is introducing a similar truck called the Santa Cruz this summer but has not said how much it will cost.
Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse, noted that compact pickup trucks had not been very successful and that most automakers had done away with them. But over the last 10 years, American tastes have gravitated toward trucks and S.U.V.s, so Ford may be smart to try again. “You have a lot of people who’ve concluded a pickup fits their lifestyle now, so this is going to be interesting to watch,” he said.
Mr. Farley expressed confidence that the Maverick would be a hit, saying he could envision Ford producing a family of Maverick variants, including an electric model.
The electric model might be a stretch but the public interest is undeniable — at least anecdotally. Numerous people have reached out to me from out of the blue to ask me about the Maverick and if they thought it would suit their needs. The more Ford can tailor the model for individual tastes, the better it’s likely to perform in terms of sales.
While I’m not enthralled with some of the packaging decisions Ford has made and wish the bed were a wee-bit longer, it would be an untruth to suggest I wasn’t similarly interested in the compact truck. I also happen to fall precisely into the automaker’s assumed demographic of people that never thought they wanted to own a pickup. As a lifelong advocate for oversized sedans and squirrely hatchbacks, I always imagined I would purchase another van (my third automotive fetish) for lugging around motorbikes and plywood. But the Maverick is looking so cheap and potentially versatile that I’m finding myself thinking again.
“The electrification of the industry is a big change, and I think it wasn’t clear until we launched Lightning and Mach E that Ford was going to be a winner in this new electric reality,” Farley said in response to the automaker’s evolving lineup. “Now investors are betting on Ford, and what they’re telling me is, ‘The strategy is attractive, Go execute it, Farley.’”
Offering good products that resonate with consumers is always a sound strategy. If Farley can keep that in the front of his mind, perhaps he’ll be a great CEO after all.
[Images: Ford Motor Co.]