Ford unveiled the future of Ford pickup trucks today (Jan. 15) via a special webcast from the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at Detroit.
With this reveal, Ford served notice that they do not intend to give up any pickup truck segment market share in 2013 (or beyond) as they boldly displayed their Ford Atlas Concept that showcases the design, capability, fuel efficiency and smart technologies that will define future Ford pickup trucks.
“The Ford Atlas Concept previews the innovations that will transform what people expect from their pickup,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “With 36 years as America’s best-selling pickup, we are absolutely committed to setting the agenda in the truck market.”
Ford executives said the Ford Atlas Concept is inspired by decades of listening to customers at the places they work and play. The result is a purpose-driven design with prominent wheel arches over 22-inch wheels and tires, a wide stance and chiseled grille – all to reinforce its functional Built Ford Tough® image.
“We wanted the concept to reflect how Ford trucks help customers in both their worlds – professionally and personally,” said J Mays, Ford group vice president and chief creative officer. “Every surface and feature in the vehicle has been crafted for purpose and capability while retaining an unmistakable Built Ford Tough look.”
For the Ford Atlas Concept, designers enhanced the current F-Series truck functionality, while creating new advanced features that add to capability, comfort and economy.
The Atlas truck shown today had multiple tie-down points that are integrated within the cargo box walls and load floor, along with 110-volt electrical outlets in the cargo box to charge power tools. An integrated roof carrying system and hidden extendable ramps (integrated as part of the tail gate step system) give the truck unique functionality for a variety of jobs.
Inside, Ford showed structural styling cues that feature some of their latest thinking in comfort, utility and refinement. The use of innovative, thin, lightweight seating in comfortable leather allows for extra legroom for rear passengers – along with integrated storage for smaller items that included “Floating” instrument pods and glove-friendly buttons and controls to keep the interior functional and ruggedly stylish.
Though they had no details to share on a new power plant, Ford says the Ford Atlas Concept will feature a next-generation EcoBoost® turbocharged power plant which already, in its current generation, powers over 250,000 F-150 pickup trucks around the world.
The next generation EcoBoost turbocharged engine will introduce a truck-enhanced Auto Start-Stop engine shutoff technology to shut off the engine when stopped in traffic to save fuel while smartly suspending the feature when the truck knows it is towing.
A six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission will be mated to the next generation EcoBoost turbocharged engine to complete the power train. As a concept vehicle, there was no information given about the designed load or tow capacity of the Atlas Concept.
The Ford Atlas Concept goes further to save fuel through a combination of active aerodynamic elements that reduce wind resistance and are estimated to add more than 2 mpg to fuel efficiency on the highway without diminishing tow or haul capacity.
Active Grille Shutters: Automatic shutters behind the grille stay open when extra engine cooling is needed, such as during low-speed stop-and-go driving or while working in hot weather. The shutters automatically close to improve aerodynamics when cruising on the highway at steady speeds.
Active Wheel Shutters: Automatic shutters in the wheels are hidden to improve style at rest and low speeds, but automatically close at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. Self-charging batteries use energy from the wheels’ motion to power the shutters.
Drop-Down Front Air Dam: A drop-down front wind spoiler lowers at highway speeds to improve under body airflow.
Power Running Boards: Auto-deploying running boards help passengers enter the truck at rest and tuck up against the truck when it is moving to improve aerodynamics and ground clearance.
Additional concept features on the Atlas included: :
Dual-Purpose Tailgate Step and Cargo Cradle: The acclaimed Ford Tailgate Step goes a step further by adding the ability to also act as a cargo cradle – lifting and holding extra-long cargo items above the truck and freeing valuable bed space.
Hidden Cargo Ramps: Lightweight, durable loading ramps stowed below the cargo box can be quickly removed and set up to assist with loading wheeled items into the bed – from landscaping equipment to dirt bikes.
Trailer Backup Assist: This segment-first innovation allows drivers to back a trailer with the twist of a knob.
Dynamic Hitch Assist: Hitching a trailer can be time consuming and difficult. Dynamic Hitch Assist helps precisely line up the truck’s hitch with the trailer coupling, eliminating maneuvering guesswork by showing visual cues in the truck’s center display screen.
Total 360-Degree Point-of-View Camera: A Ford truck first, the system gives a bird’s-eye view of the truck to help position the vehicle in tight places or when there are obstacles near the truck – such as on a busy job site or grocery store parking lot.
LED Headlamps and Taillamps: Advanced LED lighting offers better road illumination than conventional halogen or HID lights and lasts longer.
LED Cargo Box and Side Mirror Lighting: Advanced, powerful yet efficient LED lighting brightly lights the cargo box and job site after the sun goes down with minimal battery drain compared to standard headlights or plug-in lights.
Ford finished 2012 as the hands down sales leader (again) in the pickup truck segment in North America with their legendary F-Series line of trucks. Still, they were not without challenge as the competition took dead aim on Ford in 2012 and began to gain ground on Ford as 2013 began.
The number two manufacturer is General Motors with their Chevrolet Silverado series and GMC Sierra series trucks that have suffered from a lack of major overhaul since 2007 due to the recent economic downturn and their bankruptcy.
GM did introduce their next generation of pickup trucks, to be sold as 2014 models, last month to very mixed reviews about their being new and innovative enough to seriously challenge the segment leader. The success of these trucks is critical to GM and those mixed reviews are not a good sign for GM.
The number three truck manufacturer, Ram brand, is charging hard with their new 2013 Ram 1500 series truck that has won just about every truck award in the industry over the last 12 months including the prestigious Motor Trend Truck of the Year and the North American Truck of the Year awarded to them this week at the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS).
Following up on the Ram 1500 are the new Ram Heavy Duty Trucks with major capacity and performance improvements coming to the marketplace in the spring of 2013. Ram brand will continue to gain ground on GM with these trucks while keeping their eye solidly on Ford.
And we have information that the Toyota team is very probably going to introduce a major new Tundra this summer for the 2014 model year while Nissan has not announced any plans for their Titan series of trucks going forward.
The pickup truck market is going to get really interesting in 2013 and very aggressive for 2014 and 2015 - certainly between Ford, GM and Ram.
With the new Atlas concept truck that was shown today, it would appear that Ford is gearing up well to meet all of their competition head-on for 2014 and 2015.
The Atlas Concept, at first look, appears to increase their ability to do that.