The great tailgate war is upon us...
Nearly ten years ago the Ford F-150 was the first to address an apparently growing issue among full-size pickup truck owners. As trucks grew larger and larger, especially during the early part of the millennium, ingress and egress into the pickup bed were becoming more and more difficult for the average local man.
Along came Ford with its integrated tailgate step which, as the name suggests, deployed a step and grab handle from within the lowered tailgate to help you get into the bed. At the time, General Motors didn’t have anything to counter the new feature that was quickly becoming popular with Ford’s lifestyle buyers who were mainly using their trucks to haul air and their inflated machismo, so GM decided to make an ad mocking those who used the ‘Man Step’ as uncoordinated and effeminate. Because it’s cheaper to make a commercial than it is to do engineering.
But now it’s 2018 and General Motors has its own version of the man step which it debuted on the 2019 GMC Sierra. Dubbed ‘MultiPro’, it offers buyers six degrees of functionality, one of which includes a deployable step and railing when the tailgate is lowered.
However, patent documents discovered by CarBuzz suggest Ford is exploring ways to respond to the new functionality offered by its cross-town rivals.
Ford’s patent for a Full-Size Tailgate Step was granted on September 25, 2018, by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The basic idea is to slide the open tailgate out from the bed using a rail assembly, and then pivoting and lowering it from the extended position in order to create a giant step.
The telescoping rail assemblies would be attached to opposite sides of the tailgate and would be integrated underneath the bottom bed of the cargo area or within the side walls of the truck in a cavity behind the rear wheel wells. The document suggests that a latch mechanism would be used to “selectively pivot the tailgate between a closed position, a tailgate deployed position, and a step position.”
In order to help facilitate the lowering, raising, extending, and pivoting of the tailgate the patent outlines plans for a load assist mechanism, which would live above the rail assemblies within the same cavities behind the truck’s rear wheels. According to the document the load assist would include a coil/recoil spring that mounts to the body and is attached to a cable that is then wound around a pulley assembly and fed to the tailgate.
There will be a stop bracket to facilitate the use of the tailgate in the regular open position, which will be actuated by the toggle latch that users will use to select which open position they want. The load assist mechanism is designed to aid users in lowering and raising the tailgate from either the open or step position but the filing makes no mention of automatic capability.
As with all patent documents it should be understood that anything disclosed within the filing is subject to change, especially if the automaker works to refine the concept to ready it for production. Given the high stakes of the full-size pickup segment this looks like something Ford isn’t likely to just let sit on the shelf for too long.