The Detroit News
January 11, 2000
By Anita Lienert / The Detroit News
One man at a Chevrolet focus group in Denver five years ago asked a simple question: Why couldn't a pickup truck have a "fifth door" that led from the cabin into the bed?
That idea ended up on the 2001 Chevrolet Avalanche, which was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show. GM describes the Avalanche as a crossover vehicle that combines sport-utility vehicle and pickup features. It calls the vehicle's fifth door a midgate.
"One person can open it," said Deb Michael, Avalanche assistant brand manager for marketing. "You don?t need any tools and you can do it in seconds."
Think of it as a second tailgate separating the second-row seats from the 5-foot, 3-inch cargo bed. When the midgate is flipped forward into the passenger compartment (and the second row of seats is folded down), the bed extends to more than eight feet.
A quick test of the midgate confirmed that it?s easy enough for one person to operate, although you need to stand outside the vehicle to flip the second row of seats forward and the midgate down over them.
The glass rear window can be stowed inside the midgate, although Chevrolet wouldn't let us test that feature. The midgate will be a standard item on the Avalanche. Chevrolet said it expects to sell more than 100,000 Avalanches.
Competitors such as Ford Motor Co. say they are looking into putting a similar feature on their trucks, but that it likely wouldn?t show up on products for a couple of years.
The midgate is just one example of how automakers are playing with doors and trying to come up with unusual ways to access cargo and passenger areas.
The other dramatic example at the Detroit show in terms of door wars is the industry-first power-up-and-down liftgate on the 2001 Chrysler minivans.
This feature is a logical extension of the power sliding side doors common on many minivans. It will be an optional feature on the 2001 Chrysler minivans.
With the touch of a button on the key fob, the tailgate automatically opens or closes, a dream feature for any parent who's ever tried to open a tailgate while holding an infant and a bag of groceries.
Chrysler also has developed an improved version of the sliding side doors, which open and close more freely than the automatic doors offered by Honda and General Motors.