From across the pond, Ford’s recently-introduced Maverick trucklet looks tailor-made for the United States. Nothing seriously suggests it will be sold in Europe, where it would dwarf Peugeot and Renault hatchbacks in spite of its small-for-America footprint, but Ford won’t be introducing a new nameplate to the market if it ever changes its mind. European (and Australian) buyers were served two distinctly different generations of the Maverick in the 1990s and the 2000s.
The nameplate isn’t new in America, either; it was first used on a compact model positioned above the ill-fated Pinto and sold from 1969 to 1977. Europe didn’t get that model. Instead, the first Maverick let loose on the Old Continent was a badge-engineered version of the Nissan Terrano II introduced in early 1993. It was developed specifically for the European market, meaning it was narrower and more utilitarian than most SUVs sold in the United States, including the original Pathfinder (sold as the Terrano in many countries) it shared some of its underpinnings with.
Enlisting Ford allowed Nissan to reap the rewards of economies of scale. Visually, only a few brand-specific styling cues and trim tweaks set the Maverick (shown above) and the Terrano II apart. Both were available with two or four doors, and buyers could choose between a 2.4-liter gasoline-burning four-cylinder or a 2.7-liter turbodiesel four; most selected the latter. Several design and mechanical updates were made to the off-roading duo in the 1990s.
While SUVs comfortably merged into the American mainstream during the 1990s, their unpractical dimensions and relatively high cost kept them locked in a niche in Europe, so no one expected the Maverick and the Terrano II to break sales records. And yet, the Ford largely failed to live up to the relatively low expectations set for it. It wasn’t a bad truck, but it lacked the image that’s so important in off-roader circles. Remember, this is Europe we’re talking about; Ford was known for making dinky hatchbacks, big vans, and the Mustangs featured in Hollywood films, not off-roaders. The international variant of the Ranger didn’t arrive until 1998, and the handful of Explorer SUVs sold in Europe earlier in the decade did absolutely nothing to boost Ford’s reputation. On the other hand, Nissan had been peddling the go-anywhere Patrol for decades. Folks knew they’d get their money’s worth with the Terrano II.
Ford ended production of the original European-spec Maverick in late 1998, reportedly after canning a convertible variant planned to boost sales. Nissan kept the Terrano II around until about halfway through 2007.
Unsuccessful nameplates are often consigned to the automotive attic, but Ford gave Maverick a second chance to make a splash. After parting ways with Nissan, it brought the first-generation Escape to Europe under the Maverick banner (shown above) and marketed it as an alternative to truck-like SUVs. The differences between the European-spec Maverick and the American-spec Escape were largely limited to different emblems and reshuffled trim packages, which partially explains why it’s as unknown as if it had never existed. Ford made four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines available, but it did not offer a diesel. Without it, the Escape-turned-Maverick was bound to fail.
Ford’s European arm canned the Maverick nameplate for the second and final time in 2007. The second-generation Escape sold in America from 2008 to 2012 didn’t receive clearance to travel to Europe. Instead, the Maverick’s spot in the range was filled by the Kuga, a more car-like crossover designed specifically for European roads. In an odd twist of fate, the second-generation Kuga released in 2012 spawned the third-generation Escape on our shores.
What about Australia?
Australia got a Nissan-flavored taste of the Ford Maverick, too.
In the 1980s, the national government hatched a plan to jump-start the local car industry by forcing it to consolidate and loosening the strict restrictions placed on imported vehicles. Ironically, one of the Motor Industry Development Plan’s unexpected side effects was that badge-engineered models began proliferating across Australian showrooms. Why develop a competitive car if you can pay a rival to build it for you? Oddities ensued: Nissan ended up with a car-based, rear-wheel-drive pickup called Ute which was a Falcon in disguise, while Ford got a variant of the Y60-generation Patrol named Maverick. Outside of the Ford-Nissan deal, Toyota received a version of the Holden Commodore, though it settled for six cylinders because it wasn’t granted access to the V8 engines.
Back to the road: Ford of Australia’s Maverick was closely related to the Patrol it started life as, and the visual differences were even more minor than the ones that set apart the European Maverick and the Terrano II. There were Maverick emblems on the fenders and a sprinkling of Blue Oval emblems inside and out, but it was a Patrol for all intents and purposes. Power came from Nissan-sourced engines, too, including a 4.2-liter diesel straight-six.
Nissan stopped supplying Ford with the Patrol in 1994. There hasn’t been a Maverick in Australia since.