NAIAS 2013: The Ford Atlas Concept Points To The Future Of Pickups

For the past few years, Ford has been kind enough to fly us out to the North American International Auto Show for some pretty reveals, and this year was no different. And as always, Ford put on a big show in Joe Louis Arena, unveiling the Ford Atlas Concept, a futuristic Ford pickup loaded with all sorts of fuel efficient technologies and a bold, in-yo-face look.

Though Ford dropped a few hints leading up to the unveiling, the Blue Oval kept the news close to its chest. So the over-the-top unveiling featuring a latticework of iron beams, actors spraying sparks, and the Ford Atlas descending from the ceiling did exactly what Ford intended; steal the show.

With a suite of fuel-saving technologies, the Ford Atlas definitely points towards the future of not just Ford trucks, but all full-size pickups going forward. At the heart of the Atlas concept is a next-generation EcoBoost engine of unspecified size or cylinders. However, Ford did mention an Auto Stop-Start system, so we have that to look forward to.

Of more interested were the active grille shutters, which many automakers are beginning to utilize on cars which emphasize fuel efficiency. But Ford went even further with Active Wheel Shutters, hidden shutter mechanisms in the wheels which close at highway speeds, reducing drag. This feature is self-powered from energy from the spinning wheel.

A drop down air dam improves underbody airflow at highway speeds, while power running boards (which are already an available feature on Ford’s larger trucks) deploy when the door is opens and tuck away when it closes. All these features could improve fuel economy by as much as 2 mpg on the highway, while not affecting towing or hauling capacities in any way. Ford is aiming for a 3 mpg improvement overall.

While auto stop-start, power running boards, and even the active grille shutters are almost a certainty for next-gen pickups, the active wheel shutters and drop-down air dam seem less likely. Ford also integrated work-specific features like 110-volt outlets in the bed, a next-gen handhold for the tailgate, a dynamic hitching system to help lineup trailers with ease, and hidden cargo ramps.

We also find it interesting that Ford went with a metallic shade of silver for the Atlas Concept. perhaps those rumors about increased use of aluminum and magnesium had some legitimacy after all? Look for an actual production version of Ford’s next-gen pickups around 2015.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.