DETROIT -- With GM trucks making their debut at the Detroit Auto Show, and Ram’s 1500 winning North American Truck of the Year, how does Ford stay in the spotlight?
By renting out the home of the Detroit Red Wings and lowering an F-150 Concept from the ceiling while sparks fly and men pretend to work on faux steel girders.
Though the next F-150 is a year or two away, the Ford Atlas Concept truck is a strong indication of what to expect.
“It’s a fresh take on a lot of the design cues that connote what an F-Series is,” said Mark Fields, Ford's chief operating officer, after the press conference. “When you see this vehicle you know it’s an F-Series. You could see some of those things show up on a future F-Series,” Fields said.
The Atlas Concept is also a bit bigger than the current F-150. The wheelbase is six inches longer, and length is up by seven inches. The four-door model has a more pronounced chrome grille and squared-off corners and body panels that give it a more masculine look.
Though Ford didn’t disclose engine details, it did say the concept had “next-generation Eco-Boost,” a six-speed automatic transmission, and a start-stop feature to save gas.
The current F-150 is available with a turbocharged EcoBoost engine that has 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. It’s capable of towing between 8,800 and 11,300 pounds.
But Joe Hinrichs, President of the Americas, Ford Motor Co., said the Atlas Concept also brings to the full-size truck segment features currently unavailable.
“[The Atlas] takes aerodynamics and fuel efficiency to all new levels, with industry-first active grille shutters on a pickup,” Hinrichs said during the press conference. The concept also has a “smart” chin spoiler that will raise and lower to improve airflow under the truck, for additional fuel savings, Hinrichs said.
The stakes for Ford and the fate of its pickup trucks couldn’t be higher for the company.
For years, the Ford truck has been the best selling vehicle in America, and sales topped 654,000 last year, well above 200,000 more than its closest rival the Chevrolet Silverado.
Because of the huge volume and high margins and the pricey vehicles, the F-series is a huge driver of Ford’s profits.
“It’s important for Ford that the F-150 does not lose its mantle of being the best selling truck for more than three decades.” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst at auto price information company TrueCar.com. “Ford is hoping that by showing the concept F-150, it will stop buyers from purchasing from its rivals, especially the new Silverado and Sierra that were recently introduced.”
Fields said Ford is well aware of its competitors.
“We know there’s lots of people that would like to take that leadership away from us,” Fields said. “So here we’re trying to show a leader continuing to lead.”