Forget the new Corvette Stingray. Forget the holograms or Tesla's sweet gull-winged Model X. Forget the Chinese cars in the lobby, the BMW 4-Series concept, or any of the fancy electric or hybrid cars on display throughout the Cobo Center.
The Ford Atlas concept was far and away the most important vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show. Here's why.
It may not get as much media attention as an exciting, well-built (finally) performance car like the Corvette, but because the Atlas is more than likely the next F-150, it is a really big deal. And it is hugely important to the global auto industry and millions of people everywhere.
In the U.S. last year alone, Ford sold some 645,000 new F-Series trucks, making it the best-selling vehicle of any kind in America, a record they've held for more than 30 years. USA Today notes that the F-Series trucks "account for most of Ford's worldwide profits."
You probably won't find too many automotive publications (us included) hyping up a pickup truck, or slowly leaking out images of it over several years. The Corvette is a hell of a lot sexier than any truck. It's important to General Motors and Chevrolet because it's a showcase of their best technology, a rolling example of their very best efforts. And it may even have that "halo effect" where it draws people into showrooms, some of whom may leave in a Malibu or even a Camaro (although I often wonder whether that's really effective or not anymore with so much information about cars available on the Internet, but that's another story.)
But the Corvette doesn't pay the General's bills. In the last few years, they've sold about 12,000 per year, and while we can expect that to rise somewhat when the C7 goes on sale, it won't keep GM executives' children warm at night. For Ford, the F-Series trucks do exactly that.
This is a vehicle people don't just drive — they're essential to getting work done in scores of industries. People's lives and paycheck literally depend on the durability of the F-Series trucks.
But then you have markets where people DO just drive them. In my native Texas, people own trucks regardless of whether they really need a truck and a fully loaded King Ranch Ford truck is considered as much a luxury car as any Mercedes-Benz.
And if the features previewed on the Atlas carry over to the production F-150, then it will be as revolutionary as the Corvette. It will be more aerodynamic, carry an evolved EcoBoost engine, and will weigh as much as 700 pounds less than the current truck. Check out Jason's story to learn about a ton of other clever features that may end up on the next F-150.
By my logic, the next most important car at the show is the Toyota Furia, because that previews the next Corolla, another massive volume seller. But I say the Atlas is more important because it's a more evolved concept and less of a design study, and because it's a vehicle for working, not just driving.
What do you think? Was the Atlas the top concept at the Detroit show, or was there something even bigger there?