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Trucks, sedans and electric cars dominate Detroit show Tuesday

DETROIT — Anyone who has struggled to back a bass boat down a narrow ramp at the lake might be intrigued with the Ford Atlas.

The handsome silver concept truck was one of several significant introductions Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show here.

The Atlas, a hint of what the next F-150 might look like, is equipped with an assist system that allows a driver to back up a trailer by using a knob and screen on the dashboard.

“You wouldn’t have to crank the steering wheel opposite of the direction you want the trailer to go,” Doug Scott, Ford truck marketing manager, explained after the introduction. “You just turn the knob.”

For now, the big Atlas — which resembles a slightly exaggerated, more stylized F-150 — is just a concept that keeps Ford in the pickup conversation until the next F-150 arrives in two or three years.

But as Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said at the Atlas’ loud, flashy unveiling: “This is a preview of the innovations that will transform people’s expectations of pickups.”

Also rolled out Tuesday were the 2014 Lexus IS sedan, 2014 Cadillac ELR extended-range electric coupe, an Acura MDX prototype that closely previews what the new MDX crossover will look like later this year and a new full-size sedan from fast-growing Kia called the Cadenza.

In addition, electric-car maker Tesla — whose stylish, critically acclaimed S sedan won Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year — said it continues to develop a network of “super-charging” stations that will allow electric cars to get 150 miles of additional range during a 30-minute recharging.

“We have done eight of the stations, most of them on the West Coast, and we are starting on the East Coast next,” said George Blankenship, Tesla vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience. “If you wanted to take a trip, you could stop for lunch and get your car recharged while you ate — and it’s free.”

Tuesday, the last of the press preview days at the influential Detroit show, is normally slower than Monday.

But the flurry of introductions and unveilings reflects the competition in the auto industry now that the economy appears to be improving.

“It speaks to just how competitive the business is,” said Rebecca Lindland, director of automotive research at IHS Automotive.

Tech on display

Although many in the industry expected Ford to display an F-150 concept built from weight-saving material, the company opted instead to show off technology like wheel shutters on the Atlas that close at speed to improve aerodynamics.

Technology also was a big part of Cadillac’s introduction of the ELR.
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