Star of the Show: Ford's Atlas Concept

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It's not easy keeping a big secret, but that's exactly what Ford tried to do at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Sure, there was plenty of buzz about the possibility of Ford showing something interesting, but much of the chatter around the various media sites and water-coolers wasn't definitive ... even right up until the press conference. 

Now that the Ford Atlas concept has been revealed (aptly named because of how much weight the F-150 carries as it relates to Ford profits), here are the details as we know them. 

Ford is adamant that this is just a concept vehicle. Some design and technology details could make it to a future vehicle, but until Ford gauges customer interest and does the requisite number of the feasability studies, the automaker isn't sure what those details might be. In some cases, the technology highlighted could be, as we understand it, incorporated into a truck as soon as a 2015 model while others are much more futuristic than that.

Thankfully, among some of the coolest features on the Atlas concept are those centered on the more traditional truck capabilities like towing and hauling, but, of course, special attention is given to the all-important topics of aerodynamics and fuel economy.

On the towing side, the Atlas uses some of the same Lincoln technology that allows a vehicle to parallel park itself. The concept adapts it for truck owners who do a lot (or a little bit) of towing. This makes sense since the Atlas' lead chief designer, Gordon Platto, previously did the Lincoln MKS and MKT vehicles. Here are some of our favorite features: 

  • Dynamic Hitch Assist: The center display screen will show with visual cues exactly where the hitch ball and trailer socket are located and make it an easy, one-time backup operation. 
  • 360-Degree Camera: This is a first for full-size pickups. With four separate cameras, the driver is able to see all around the truck from a bird's-eye view. 
  • Trailer Backup Assist: With the same sensors that help with the hitch assist, the truck can be programmed to back up the vehicle and trailer into a designated space without the driver's hands on the steering wheel. 

The new Atlas concept also includes a great many cargo-hauling features designed to help the work-duty construction worker as well as the weekend warrior. Integrated into the bed tailgate — much like the existing tailgate step — is a ladder or long-cargo cradle designed to more easily accomodate longer gear such as a ladder, construction wood or piping. Even the roof has detents and latch-points for cargo. Integrated into the tailgate are two lightweight ramps for loading bed toys (ATV, motorcycles or bikes) or work gear into the bed. 

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As to the important issue of aerodynamics (both GM and Ram have been working in these areas lately, as well), the new Atlas concept is the first truck with active wheel shutters that are designed to automatically close off the wheel's open sections for smoother air flow. Likewise, the Atlas also employs active grille shutters like certain models of the current Ram 1500, but it also includes an industry-first active front air spoiler that can automatically gauge wind speed and flow and extend and contract as needed.

Most importantly (this is where the Ford people get sketchy), the Atlas is reported to be using the next-generation EcoBoost engine, but no sizes, power ratings or fuel-economy numbers were discussed. Ford officials would only tell us that this engine would be appropriate for a truck with both work and play duties, but they did share that the concept's engine did have auto start/stop, which shuts the engine off when idling. This sytem also would be able to detect whether to continue that mode when towing. 

As to the physical size and look of the truck (inside and out), the truck does have a strong, extra-large "Super-Duty-ish" feel to it. The Atlas has 33-inch BFG All-Terrain tires, riding on 22-inch rims. There's a touch of the Raptor vibe in the overall look and feel. Inside, the look is much more futuristic and daring, but we'll let you judge that for yourself.

There was much discussion around the size and weight of the Atlas concept as journalists got to the Ford representatives. "We'll be looking at a lot of ways to reduce weight on the next-gen F-150 to meet out goals," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president of global product planning. Previous reports had some at Ford saying they would like to lose as much as 700 pounds from the half-ton to help with aggressive fuel-economy targets. Nair went on to say, "... if we can get that kind of weight out of that truck then we can start looking at more efficient, even smaller EcoBoost strategies — smaller engines can be more appropriate for lighter vehicles."

Realistically, what does the Atlas concept mean for the next-generation F-150? Some of that answer, we believe, was in the truck's introduction, where Nair referenced the Ford's Mighty F-350 Tonka and Super Chief concepts from 2002 and 2006, respectively. Both gave us some real clues of how the next-gen Super Dutys would look and exactly what types of features (meaning luxury option packages) we'd be seeing in the future. 

We think it's worth noting that much of Ford's reasoning behind not having a small truck in the U.S. market hinges on the new global Ranger's capability range that overlaps quite a bit with the F-150. From a business proposition, Ford officials don't think it makes sense to have both here. With the new Atlas concept going bigger, this could mean Ford might be trying to create more separation between the two segments (half-ton and midsize) to open up a spot for a smaller truck. We'd guess that's what the automaker will do if the new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon start getting good sales results later next year. We'll see.

To read the full Ford Atlas press release, click here

To read about Gordon Platto, chief designer of the Atlas, click here.

To see more photos of the Atlas on our Facebook page, click here.  

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@Fordtrucks77: well, you made yourself look like a moron.

The only thing I have to say negative about this truck right now is: 22" wheels. I think you might hear negative things from others as well about the tire size, but oh well, it's not for me.

I do actually wish Ram would just make the front air dam like this one says it will be done. Not that that's something so new. They have probably already thought of it.

I personally don't like it's looks, but that's me. Not too sure there is anything very aero about it, but whatever floats your boat. (or keeps you employed, for that matter.)

We don't hardly know if Ford will build this, and we don't know much about it.

We do know Ram built is gonna be building the 2013 1500.

Every other truck company looked over their shoulder and shrugged when GM showed their newest truck.

But by all means, since you work for Ford, you will love whatever they do.

Enjoy your pipe dream.

How you doing on fixing those Ecoboosts?

I've said it before... the Next F150 will have a bigger, wider body sitting on a T6 chassis. Sure, there'll be some pieces beefed up a bit, but the basic arcitecture will be from the smaller truck.

Great, great looking pickup.
That is the way to transition the F150, Ford. Love the working name too...Atlas. Maybe time to go to a name system. And the features are brilliant for the people who actually work with their trucks. I can see the work versions with some of those features. Going to need a new half ton soon. Come on Ford, don't wait too long and don't wussy them down.

I love me some Chevy, but this truck has me staring in awe. Can't wait for Chevy to take some of these ideas and incorporate them into their trucks. I won't be ashamed to buy a truck with the better features copied from others (as long as it says Chevy on it). It happens to them all eventually. But that is a gorgeous truck. Bravo!

Ram-We are going to add air bags, active grill shutters and an 8 speed to boost mpg and redesign the chassis to be lighter without sacrificing strength. We planning for a small diesel too.

Ford-We are going to give it active grill shutters, air and wheel dams, give it cameras all around, a slide out man ramp, trailer back up assist, trailer hitch assist, a new Ecoboost with start stop and even a place to fit a ladder on top. We are working with Toyota for a hybrid pickup drivetrain.


Underwhelming to say the least. Funny how the Ford fanboys slammed GM for supposedly not going far enough with styling only to have this slightly changed F come right after. Certainly does not standout much from the current model, i think Ford could have saved much money not worrying about leaked photos here....

I like the integrated tailgate ramp idea. That would be a sweet option for future models.

WOW!!!! This is one awesome truck!! Ford came loaded for bear and this truck kicks the gm twins and the fiat ram straight to the curb. All the fiat ram news that came out lately has just became a joke as Ford just wiped there a@#$s on them. Man thats one tough truck. Look and learn gm and fiat ram, you just might learn something!!

Really like the looks of the truck....Just think this Ford will feature the same 5 cylinder Diesel that will go in the large Transit van!

Also wonder if they are thinking frameless...just like the new Transit vans will be as well....until proved otherwise....I prerfer a frame for a van and vans usually haul more heavy and daily weight than pickups....

Now THAT's how you show off your new ideas. Complete and total domination. This announcement is getting more press than GM's release of actual production trucks. This thing is everywhere. It's on TV, newpapers, and every freaking truck site, no matter what the brand. Everyone is talking about it and comparing to it as Ford just raised the bar again. Marketing geniuses!

WOW, has totally BBQ'd the GM trucks today...

"With the Atlas Concept, Ford essentially looked over at GM's new production-ready Silverado and Sierra, shrugged, and then just completely destroyed their day. To truly understand what Ford just did to GM, picture Ford as Kanye West, and Taylor Swift as GM -- during GM's big moment in the spotlight with its new trucks, Ford grabbed the mic, told GM that they'd get to finish, announced the F-150 as 'the greatest truck of all time!' and then showed its next one."


"Making matters worse for GM (as a colleague pointed out), is that Ford's released just as many details on Atlas as GM has about the 2014 Silverado and Sierra, both of which are slated to go into production in the first half of this year."


"With its production Silverado and Sierra pickups looking ho-hum compared to new Atlas, General Motors is clearly having a bad day...well, at least the new Corvette's cool, right?"

Read more:

This is just Ford doing what they do best. Kicking @$$ and taking names.

Somewhere in Detroit, there's a room full of Chevy truck engineers, curled up under their desks in the fetal position, whimpering. "Mommy?"

Nothing for Ram or GM truck guys to fear here, just another 2005 f150 with lipstick of a Super duty/Ram/GM grill all mixed into one with a dent in the roof. I guess Ford forgot how to make new sheet metal. It be 2050 by time Ford will figure out how to change body stamping and how to fix all them problem ego boost motors, yawn wake me up when Ford finally does something that don't look 10 or 12 years old.

Ford Engineers greatests ideas! hey lets keep makeing a 10 year old truck but add a new grill i mean after all every ford ownera are so drunk on ford kool-aid like ram workers are on whiskey and dope for lunch breaks they'll never notice it! we'll call it all new and change nothing at all! we'll just order ram and gm grills and pay some poor people to glue the odd parts together for 3 cents a hour!

WOW, has totally BBQ'd the GM trucks today...

"With the Atlas Concept, Ford essentially looked over at GM's new production-ready Silverado and Sierra, shrugged, and then just completely destroyed their day. To truly understand what Ford just did to GM, picture Ford as Kanye West, and Taylor Swift as GM -- during GM's big moment in the spotlight with its new trucks, Ford grabbed the mic, told GM that they'd get to finish, announced the F-150 as 'the greatest truck of all time!' and then showed its next one."


"Making matters worse for GM (as a colleague pointed out), is that Ford's released just as many details on Atlas as GM has about the 2014 Silverado and Sierra, both of which are slated to go into production in the first half of this year."


"With its production Silverado and Sierra pickups looking ho-hum compared to new Atlas, General Motors is clearly having a bad day...well, at least the new Corvette's cool, right?"

Read more:

Posted by: Quinto | Jan 15, 2013 5:01:00 PM

I like those comments from Truck Trend. GM got owned.

that is bad a$$!!!

What a great looking truck.The only person who doesn't like it is goverment bob and his 20 new fake names.Bob you do realize everyone knows its you right!

Looks like gm is in for a second hand out.
Have no fear bob because as long as you put a b on both cheeks and bend over even in the mirrow you will and forever be bob.

This truck is bad ass.... as in its bad ass ugly and out dated truck ever made!

i stick my peter in ford truck tail pipes and get off cause im a dumb ford owner and don't know any better

Ford did this so people don't move to gm product afraid to lose sales .but you never get this truck on the market because the volume sales be disastrous ..

Hey latwoods: so where do you get the idea the Ram 1500 frame is weak? They totally redid the frame, which didn't have issues, to make it stronger, and lighter. But anyway....

On the 2009 and up, Ford CHOOSE to compare their frame to Tundra instead of Ram or GM. I wonder how Fords little video would turn out if it was compared to a Ram or GM?

Funny how Ford does their little comparisons. For the Davis Dam shootout, they CHOOSE not to show a Tundra 5.7 vs. Egoboost. They would have lost their ass, so they CHOOSE not to compare it. As it was, the Ram, with it's much lesser gear ratios, while getting its butt whipped 0-60 with a 9000 pound trailer by what, 12 seconds, and narrowed it to 3 seconds at the end. Ford choose to compare to one 5.7, but not the other, because they had a gearing advantage. Hope Ram redoes that with an 8 speed for all you "my Ford can tow faster with max weight..." types.

Back in 09 Ford chose to compare best gas mileage of v-8s available, so they compared a little rev more rpm 4.6L to a Hemi! Of course the Ford won, but the Hemi would outpull a 4.6 by a longshot, and the 5.3 Chevy would have outpulled it as well. The Toyota 4.7 they compared it to was dropped to be replaced by a smaller 4.6 that will whip a 4.6 Ford truck engine, and get better mileage. The 4.6 Toyota was a bit behind at that time. Gotta love Ford marketing!

Now you talk about reliability? Ba ha ha! Ford has their share of "issues" with their 6 speeds, they have people telling the Ecoboost owners that have issues that they are "not built for trailer tow usage". They still are trying to figure out how to make them work for people in humid areas. How does three recalls sound for a vehicle that they just refreshed, or all new? The Escape. Not even having been out half a year.

Not to say Ram / Chrysler is perfect, but you might want to look around.

Haven't heard too bad about your 32 valve 5.0, but the fact is, it needs revved. Unlike a 5.4, which, uh, takes the cake for one of the worst casting threading issues, so you get to that 100,000 mile with a 5.4 (that's alot of miles on a set of plugs) tune-up, expect issues!Ford has a trend of making non turbo engines need to be revved. As for the Ecoboost, when there are alot of them getting over 150,000 miles with normal maintainance, I will consider it reliable. I don't believe Fords lies as it is! You can fool some people some times, but you can't fool all the people all the time!

the news engine out makes 123 hp and 170 .lbs tq from a 1.0l turn the numbers to the 2.0l 246hp and 340lbs tq in the 2015 f-150 plus if you make it at least 700lbs lighter and much better aerodynamics you could see with a 10 speed trans and start stop you will see 20mpg to 30mpg no questions asked.

Look like gm all terrain??

I meant to say the Toyota 4.7 was behind at that time. Not the 4.6, which is a decent engine, but it's a bit too small with too much weight for my needs (4.7 in double cab 4x4 pulling 6,000 pounds)

Ford can't make any horse power with out some type of force air interduction Ford 500 spark plugs per cylinder and 500 valve enigines are boat boat anchors!

@dsklfjja; i've seen bricks with more aerodynamics then truck has

I like the composite bed, but the middle of the roof is strange. The big bar across the grill is something that I don't care much which is similiar to the Super Duty but the rest of the truck is not bad. If this is the new F-150 they need a little more work, but I would like to see the composite bed and the bed hooks as factory equipment. The current Silverado has the bulky heavy duty front end which is something I never have cared for but at least this truck doesn't have the huge curves over the fenders. I think they they should reduce the size of this grill. Again I would have to see this in person but I really am not that crazy about the front. Not trying to be anti Ford it just does nothing for me. I have no problems with the looks of the current F-150.

dsklfjja: Gotta get a laugh out of your 30 mpg prediction! No questions asked! If it were to get 30 MPG, it would be on little Dynapro Hankook 235/75 or is it 245/75 17" tires, tiny ones with poor performance.
With these tires, you better take off alot of mileage!

I actually wish Ram would put the 65 series tires such as Fords Michelins that are 30 and a half or so inches tall, on the Ram 1500 4x2 shortbed.

Ram can stand some more tire choices, just not that crappy Dynapro so called A/T!

Thanks for the LAUGH TROLLS!

Stop crying into your keyboard you are embarrassing yourself. Face it this truck is better than your companies new truck concept or not. So have a little dignity like Guggenheim while the ship is sinking.

I actually like this truck, not so slab sided looking like the current ford trucks. I the roof rack/tailgate step is an awesome idea. I just had to go to Lowe's last weekend for two replacement 12' deck boards for my deck and no good way to haul them, but this would have been perfect.

I think the truck looks great. Why butcher it and make into something totally different when the existing one sells so well?

Pickups are getting nicer all the time. Upcoming Fords, Rams and GM's (not so much Silverado) give a open minded buyer a lot of choice.

The dash does look simular the new GM as far as general shape goes.

I guess we'll see how it plays out in a year or two.

OK, I didn't see that one coming, they are making the F150 bigger?
Makes no sense in light of looming EPA MPG requirements and the rumours of making the truck lighter.
If one considers Ram's 30,000 pound tow gorilla, it makes perfect sense.
Upgrade the F150 so it is basically a light 3/4 ton.
The F250 gets bigger and badder tow ratings, and the F450 becomes a MDT with a pickup box.
We now have room for the Ranger with minimal overlap.
I can see it being called a F100 - Ford wouldn't want to waterdown the "we sell the most" F-series strategy.
Interesting....... very......... interesting.

What I don't like: the SuperDuty regurgitated grill. It is ugly on the SD and, well, it is ugly on the F150.

Ladder rack indent?
It makes the truck look odd but it looks much nicer and most likely more aerodynamic than an extruding rack on the Tacoma. I've seen plenty of dumb people use the roof of their new truck as a rack. Ford is making it official.

Shutters in the wheels? Great for a street truck in sunny Sothern California.
I wonder how well they will work when covered in mud or have ice frozen onto them?

WTF? Is this stuff neccessary? If you buy a truck to tow and you need a computer to park it for you, you shouldn't be towing.

Good ideas:
Deployable airdam - makes sense and will not generate any "overheat" lights in the process.

I like the idea of the tailgate step as a rack. I've looked at the step on my truck and wondered if it would work with as a cargo rack.

I'm still thinking that an I-4 eccoboost will be the base model, the 3.5 EB will be mid level. The 5.0 may stay as a normally aspirated V8, but I'm guessing it will grow a few turbo's and DI.
The next gen Mustang is rumoured to be too small to fit the 5.4 derived 5.8 litre Shelby engine. That means a forced induction 5.0. The 5.0 was designed with turbo's in mind.

The global Ranger as a rebadged F100 is on its way.

What I love most about the Ecoboost engine is how quick in snappy it is. Not only is it a work horse and hauls like there's nothing behind it, but when i need to take bmw owner off their high horse, I can count on the Ecoboost to spring forward off the light. I hope ford doesn't lose sight of that, fuel economy is great, but at the end of the day we are all men (and women) who own pickup trucks, high in testosterone, wanting to show off and be on top in every game. Knowing our trucks can take out some foreign import ;)

@TRXTom - dude, I know you are defending your favorite brand, but you are starting to sound like a more knowledgable HemiV8.

@Bob - I wonder how you get by in life? You must be extremely handsome since you have zero brains or personality.

The design is a little busy, and other than ridiculous 22" wheels, I think it looks pretty good.

It has a cab-forward design, similar to the Tundra, which is good for approach angle and a roomy cabin. It isn't slammed to the ground, like another new pickup, so it has decent ground clearance.

I like the idea of smart weight reduction to increase payload and fuel economy--although I am sure all of the manufactures do this to a certain extent; it is just a matter of cost.

I may own a Tundra and have a great job, but better MPG is a plus in my book... .

More knowledge, yes. Using that knowledge to produce effective outcomes, no.

The guy has good retention for information, but uses this information like a politician.

@OneToughDude --I went back and read the article a little more closely and now that I see the purpose of the indentation on middle of the roof is to put things on the roof and secure them to the roof without scratching the roof. That is a good idea. Tail gate step is a good idea as well. The front would be a little hard to get use to, but again I would like to see it in person.

@Lou-Good point about the wheel shutters. I live in an area that gets snow in winter and I could see a problem with ice, snow, and frozen mud accumulating in the wheel wells and shutters. In a period of prolonged cold it might be hard to keep your wheel wells and shutters clear. I think we will see the global Ford in NA but I still think that it could be the new F-150 with some of the features of this Atlas incorporated in it. I am not a big fan ot the big rig look of the front but otherwise I could get use to it.

Do away with the space wasting console. It is "pretty" but waste a lot of usable space

Ford stole Chevy's thunder. Again.

"Yes, when Ford lowered it from the ceiling they essentially dragged their ballsack across Chevy and Dodge’s face.

Good Job Ford…LOL"

This has to be the comment of the day from another site i was reading lmao!

Ladder/lumber racks get beat up pretty fast on top if used as intended. They are also higher up than the roof so you can't see what a number metal and wood do to the top of the crossbars. I could'nt bring myself to do that to my roof. Maybe you could haul a few plastic deck boards up there? Enough to build the steps anyway.

Put an overhead console inside and just try to look a 6' shotgun rider in the eye.

I have revised my stir it up campagain. GM did not stir up the cmpetition enough. No High Country edition. No Outlaw. No Fall Guy edition. Thus it goes to Ford.

Here are the details. The stir it up campaign will feature Patti Labelle's hit song "Stit It Up). Howie Long will be driving a F-150. Yes, after the debut the 2015, Howie learned what an azz he has been and jumped to Ford!

Nerves jump off the pavement, passion hits the street (this scene features Howie driving F-150 Nano EB on the streets getting 30 mpg - Howie smiles)
Angels cookin' in the city heat
World's too crazy, I can't take no more (Howie goes to Home Depot and loads up on some 12' decking lumber in this scene to show off the awesome cargo roof top holder)
I won't stay here locked behind the door (This is where Howie breaks loose and really STIRS IT UP and goes off-road)
Baby, stir it up, got to break it up now (this scene shows Howie tearing it up off-road goign through mud)
When I think about tomorrow, ooh, I can't wait to
Stir it up, got to shake it up now
If I have to beg or borrow, I'm not gonna take it anymore, mmm, mmm (video ends with Howie sitting in a LUXURY interior and picking up a model for a night on the town)

@Michigan Bob,

I don't think you realize what Ford just did here! It was thought Ford would jump up 1 generation over the 14 Silvy but they just jump 3 generations over the Silvy in one fell swoop. No joke!!!! There is no coming back now.

3 generations is a little bit of an overstatement.

It seems this F-150 if it comes to fruition will be a generation ahead. That's the same formula the global Ranger/BT50 used outside of the US.

This left the competitors empty handed. But the new Colorado is good, but not as good as the Ford. The same goes for the Amarok, it just needs a larger engine.

It wouldn't be hard for Fiat to become competitive with a VM diesel Ram. It would interest a number of buyers.

Remember this is only a concept.

No sssss Sherlock. I am aware that this is a concept but the Ford people have already said it is not a head fake. A 3 generation jump on Silverado when they were already behind by 1 is conservative. The 14 Silverado looks like it is from 1988-1990. This F-150 looks like it is from Buck Rogers era. When the dust settles it will be 2 to 3 gens ahead of GM.

Don't get ahead of yourselves Ford fans. I know half of you can't read much less comprehend what you read. Let me post the most important part of the article before you Ford boy's start beating your chest on a CONCEPT vehicle. lol

Ford is adamant that this is just a concept vehicle. Some design and technology details COULD make it to a future vehicle.

RAM walked away with the NORTH AMERICAN TRUCK OF THE YEAR. Hands down over Ford lol.
Surprising a host of onlookers (including me), the 49 U.S. and Canadian journalists that sit on the North American Truck/Utility of the Year panel voted the new Ram 1500 the winner for 2013. The two other competitors included the Ford C-Max Hybrid and Mazda CX-5. According to several jurors on the panel, the Ram was the hands-down winner. Fred Diaz, president and CEO of Ram Truck, was there to accept the award and brave an ocean cameras.

This is the third time a Chrysler product has won the Truck of the Year award. The award is considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious based on its diverse mix of 49 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada who serve as the voting jurors.

I'm not the only one who said the GM looked 1980's. It has a garbage plain jane interior is circa 2001. The exterior is baed on the 1988. Garbage! GM is going backwards in design. Ford is going forward. Based on this new info, I have concluded GM is now 6 generations behind design wise.

@HEmiV8 - yes, it is a concept but it did its job.
What pray tell was that job?
To steal any thunder away from GMC's public release of its twins. It has done that rather well.
It also was very effective for stealing the thunder out of Ram's award issued by a bunch or car journalists.

1 shot 2 kills. 2 birds with 1 stone.

A very good day for Ford's Public Relations Department.

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