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It took several rounds of innovation, but Ford remains on top. The North American Truck of the Year awards handed the crown to three consecutive Ford trucks: the Ford F-150 (2021), the Maverick (2022), and the F-150 Lightning (2023). Here’s why the jurors voted on each Ford.

The 2021 Ford F-150 stands out among standard pickup trucks

A black Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid pickup shows off its truck of the year powertrain by pulling a heavy camper trailer up a steep hill, a bridge visible in the background.
2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost | Ford Motor Company

Ford launched the 14th generation of its F-series truck for the 2021 model year. Segment-leading features included fold-flat bucket seats, a digital instrument panel, and Active Drive Assist.

The automaker’s redesign went much deeper than a facelift and software. Internal combustion trucks got an efficient 10-speed automatic standard. Engine options ranged from efficient EcoBoosts, to turbodiesels, to more traditional 5.0-liter V8s. It also introduced the F-150’s first hybrid drivetrain: the PowerBoost. This was the first fully hybrid pickup truck in years, and quickly became the top-trim option of the Ford.

Freelance auto reporter, analyst, and NACTOY juror John Voelcker said the following:

“The F-Series is Ford’s crown jewel, not to mention the highest-selling vehicle lineup in the U.S. for 40 years…The latest version refines the package, keeping what’s good, updating as needed, and delivering the right mix of features, capabilities, comfort, and style—with the added benefit of the first hybrid powertrain in almost a decade to debut in a full-size pickup truck.”

John Voelcker

See if you can actually save fuel money by investing in a hybrid Ford F-150.

The 2022 Ford Maverick makes an offer you can’t refuse

2022 Ford Maverick | Ford Motor Company

The journalists behind the North American Vehicle of the Year awards admitted that until recently, it was easy to pick a winner in the truck category. The five automakers offering full-size pickup trucks tend to stagger their redesigns, so the jurors simply choose the pickup with the most recent redesign–such as the 2021 F-150. But by 2022, things were changing.

That model year saw several new compact pickup trucks hit the market and even the world’s first electric pickup truck, the Rivian R1T. The F-150 took the trophy home by not only leaning on engineering with its Bronco-based Maverick but also carefully considering consumer needs. The unignorable compact truck boasted 40 MPG around town and a starting price under $20k.

Juror and executive analyst at iSeeCars, Karl Brauer, expressed strong opinions on the Maverick:

“Ford has revived the compact truck segment with one of the most compelling packages you can buy in 2022. The Maverick’s efficient packaging delivers an urban-friendly, highly functional truck with an impressive list of standard equipment, even in base trim. But the Maverick’s most impressive standard feature is value — an increasingly rare trait in modern vehicles.” 

Karl Brauer

Find out why TFL Truck agreed that the Maverick is the truck of the year.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning is the best of both worlds

2023 Ford Lightning Platinum | Ford Motor Company

By 2023, American drivers have begun to accept that the future will probably be electric. What remains to be seen is what that future will look like. The Tesla Cybertruck, Rivian R1T, and Hummer electric truck all assert competing visions of that future. The Ford F-150 Lightning offers something more familiar. Ford suggests that while a powertrain revolution is coming, there’s no reason to abandon what works.

The Ford Lightning maintains the dimensions, and much of the equipment, of a current F-150. It adds a battery pack and one electric motor for each axle. One major benefit of this choice is that the extensive F-150 aftermarket community can adapt quickly to the Lightning. Another benefit that driving one is a statement, but not an abrasive one. The result is that Ford can’t keep up with Lightning orders.

Bengt Halvorson, juror and writer for Green Car Reports, was especially keen on the Lightning:

“Save the reinvention. The F-150 Lightning shows how the most familiar vehicle in American life can be made even better as an EV, and it’s fantastic.” 

Bengt Halvorson

The North American Car of the Year Awards is an independent organization with 50 jurors who are professional automotive journalists. It gives yearly awards to a new car, SUV, and truck. We’ll have to wait and see if Ford can maintain its streak and take a truck award again in 2024.

Next, read what features make the Ford F-150 Lightning Pro a bargain or watch MotorTrend’s truck of the year reveal in the video below: