It’s not every day I get to interview a chief designer of any car, so when I was offered the opportunity I said “YES! How soon!?” The friendly Gordon “Gordo” Platto, Chief Designer of the Ford Atlas Concept and I chatted about the handsome beast.
NP: What inspired you in the design process of the Atlas Concept?
Gordo: Ford has been a truck leader for over 36 years and we wanted to keep leading. We tested the waters on what the next-gen trucks could look like. To do so, we went on immersion events to design for customers aesthetically and functionally. We learned that trucks aren’t just for work, they serve a dual purpose as a tool for work and life. The customers want to be comfortable driving it with family and friends with uncompromised appearance and function. Before styling, it’s about getting the tough job done. Fuel efficiency is a key component. We took it from the sleek bullet train look to the locomotive and ended up somewhere in between.
NP: Is this a departure for trucks?
Gordo: This is a balance between a beautiful and functional truck. In the past trucks have looked fit for purpose, just nice, rather than beautiful. With the understanding of having a work and lifestyle vehicle, the aesthetics have been pumped.
NP: What is the most unique feature of the Atlas?
Gordo: There are two things. This is a show truck, so the ideas have been pushed to the extreme. The customer is interested in fuel efficiency and the aerodynamic features have gotten a lot of interest. The active wheel shutters close. There are shutters within each wheel space of the rim which operate dynamically. The active aerodynamic shutters in the grille work in conjunction. There is a cargo cradle that comes up from the tailgate to the height of the roof to carry long boards and canoes for people with active lifestyles.
NP: Is there a new “must” that will change trucks?
Gordo: A few years ago American trucks had to have a V8. Now, the V6 EcoBoost has been a very well accepted engine because of fuel efficiency. Weight and aerodynamics are playing a large role in fuel efficiency choices. Part of our DNA is tough trucks so we couldn’t make trucks look as slippery as our bullet train design (above), even though the truck is very aerodynamic. Trucks will continue to go more premium, though, I’m not sure if we’ve hit the ceiling yet. Vehicles, and trucks in particular, need to be more connected even more. The connectivity of trucks is becoming even more critical for the work that they are used for.
NP: What is one thing you saw in a competitor’s vehicle that you felt was a great idea?
Gordo: A corner bumper step is a really neat idea. We had integrated the step in our tailgate, so we both achieved similar results.
NP: What technology was new for this truck that might have not been possible in the past?
Gordo: The LED lighting inside the headlamps have played a strong role and will be in trucks of the future. The active grille shutters are a strong compliment for fuel economy, too. Fuel economy continues to be one of the key drivers for vehicles. The new EcoBoost will have the start/stop feature. Each of these features will carefully play into gaining extra mileage towards better fuel economy.
A wonderful thank you to Gordo for taking time to visit. If you’d like to see more, check out the video below and the Ford Atlas Concept page.