For most of its existence, the tailgate has been a fairly simple piece of engineering: a door that folds up and down on the back of a truck bed. But the pickup truck wars are as cutthroat as any geopolitical rivalry, if ultimately less bloody, so it was only a matter of time until this untapped well of innovation was popped open.
General Motors struck first with the MultiPro / MultiFlex tailgate that added a folding lip to the top of the gate that, as those annoying commercials (and one adorable one) have demonstrated, can be a workspace or step, among other things. Then Ram parried with the MultiFunction tailgate, which opens two different ways: the old-fashioned up-and-down, as well as side-to-side in a 60/40 split. With both those players on the field, it was only a matter of time until Ford launched its own volley — and now, we have our first taste of what FoMoCo's reinvented tailgate may look like.
As CarBuzz recently discovered, Ford has patented a tailgate design that, like Ram's, includes a side-opening feature in addition to the usual up-and-down motion. However, Ford's version features a single side-opening door in the middle of the tailgate, creating something of a door-within-a-door effect.
This arrangement, presumably, is designed to make it easier for users with shorter arms to access items in the center of the bed without worrying about the tailgate sides swinging wide and potentially contacting other objects, such as parked cars or unwary pedestrians' faces.
To further add to the idea's functionality, the Ford patent also includes a deployable step that hides on the existing lip in the bumper designed to make space for the license plate. The step appears to unfold outwards and down, offering a foothold that's both lower and further rearward than any existing toeholds in the bumper.
Obviously, this is just a patent filing — there's no guarantee that it'll come to production. But unlike some larger-than-life automotive patent filings we've seen in the past (Tesla's laser windshield wipers, Ferrari's mind-reading car), this seems entirely practical — and, given GM and Stellantis's existing products in the space, a logical addition to Ford's truck portfolio.