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Consumer Reports auto experts report from the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Ford Atlas

What is it: Ford’s preview of the 2015 F-150 pickup truck, the best-selling vehicle in America.

What’s new and notable? Nothing yet, since the truck is still in development. But in the so-competitive-its-mindboggling light-duty pickup segment Ford wants to steal some thunder from a much updated 2013 Ram 1500 and the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra. So, while both Ram and GM follow evolutionary steps, Ford goes for a moonshot.

Rumors are that the F-150 weighs significantly less thanks to extensive use of aluminum body panels. Paired with aerodynamic tricks like wheel shutters and a movable front chin spoiler, plus a next-generation EcoBoost V6, Ford aims to meet ever-stiffening fuel economy standards head-on.

All of this innovation is packaged in a rugged, yet familiar exterior—nothing too adventuresome on the outside. Tweaks to innovative features, like a more useful tailgate step, continue to differentiate the truck.

CR’s take: It’s easy to shrug at the Atlas—Ford’s press conference was heavy on PR and workingman imagery and light on substance. Going for innovation with the big-profit-generating F-150 may be a substantial gamble in a conservative market segment. After all, aluminum costs money and isn’t as easy to repair as steel.

But the success of their EcoBoost V6 engine shows that a surprising number of truck buyers are willing to try something new beneath the old familiar F-150 name.  In the end, considerably upping pickup fuel economy could be a game-changer.

When does it go on sale: Nothing announced, but expected to be a 2015 model year truck.

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