Ford Motor Co., trying to protect its turf in the large pickup market, unveiled a concept truck that previews the company’s next-generation F series and advances in fuel economy.
The company’s decision to show off an F-150 concept nearly two years before the next redesigned F-150 goes on sale, underscores how full-sized pickups remain one of the most highly contested segments of the U.S. market.
The Atlas is equipped with a next-generation EcoBoost powertrain with start-stop engine shutoff technology and other features crafted to boost fuel economy, Ford said.
Ford says new design and technology features, along with weight-saving materials, on the Atlas concept help gain more than 2 mpg on the highway without diminishing towing or hauling capability.
The F series is the nation’s top-selling vehicle and a cornerstone of Ford’s U.S. sales and annual profits.
GM took the wraps off the pickups last month, but hasn’t revealed fuel-economy or other performance figures.
In addition, a re-engineered full-sized Toyota Tundra is due in showrooms this spring.
The next-generation F-150 is not due in the market until late 2014 as a 2015 model, but Ford knows it can’t afford to rest on its laurels as the industry’s pickup leader.
Ford sold 645,316 F-Series pickups in 2012, or 29 percent of the company’s U.S. unit sales. No other vehicle came close. The Chevrolet Silverado was second in U.S. sales last year at 418,312 units.
Ford officials declined to discuss details of the next generation EcoBoost engine featured in the Atlas.