Unless you’ve been living under a really big rock for the past five months, you’re well aware of the Ford Atlas and all of the hype it has created. You also probably know how Ford unveiled the Atlas less than 24 hours after Chevrolet pulled the satin sheet off the C7 Corvette Stingray at the 2013 North American International Auto Show. After the dust settled, Ford faced instant pressure to answer if this was actually the thirteenth generation of the F-150. The Blue Oval has actively dodged this question, saying the Atlas is a simple exercise in design aesthetics, while simultaneously and continuously showcasing it around the country. To get to the bottom of all this, we spoke with Gordon Platto, whom Ford put in charge of designing the Atlas.
Automotive.com: Where did you get the inspiration for designing the Ford Atlas? We’ve heard rumors that Marvel’s Iron Man inspired the design of the slots on the front grille.
Gordon Platto: When we developed (the truck), we wanted to see and try to figure out where we want to fall in a certain bandwidth. We’ve heard that customers are going to be very interested in fuel efficiency, so we wanted to see where we were going to fit in terms of what would the most efficient truck look like and what does the toughest truck on the planet look like. We developed a bunch of sketches that kind of fell (on separate ends of the spectrum) and then this Iron Man look, we felt, fell right in between. Not too sleek, but not too industrial, either.
A.com: Did you expect the Atlas to be so popular?
GP: I’ve worked on (vehicles in the past) and this one has really taken off and almost has a life of its own. The interest, it’s fantastic, and we’ve been getting compliments from our competition and from people who typically aren’t truckers. We’re very in tune with what our customers want in the future and one thing we learned is that trucks aren’t just for work anymore. They need to clear this dual purpose, which is for working as well as their life style.
A.com: Ford already has the EcoBoost, but what design cues in particularly does the Atlas include to further fuel economy.
GP: Now, and in the future, we feel fuel economy is on the mind of all of our customers. If you look at the V-6 EcoBoost, who would’ve thought three or four years ago there would be an American truck with a V-6. Regarding the Atlas, we took that a step further, being that it’s a concept, and really looked at ways to make it more efficient. The truck being sheer, actually is a very aerodynamic shape, even though it looks a little bit boxy, it actually detaches the air a little bit more quickly.
A.com: (The Ford Atlas) looks 98 percent production ready. How many times do you and your team design and tweak it?
GP: From sketch to completion, about a year. Truckers are truckers and they like to see things that are real and if you get way too wacky and way far out there, they won’t understand.
A.com: Do you have a favorite feature on the Atlas that isn’t talked about much?
GP: The active wheel shutters, you’d be amazed the amount of engineering that went into that.
What say you? Should Ford go ahead and make the Atlas the next F-150? Sound off in the comments section.