Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The other day, I had to close the tailgate (upward-opening rear door) of a Ford Galaxy people-mover, for its tiny Japanese lady driver, who could not reach the open door by about a foot.

This did not particularly surprise me, after 20 years of using a Renault Espace with a smallish wife & 4 growing children.
I was used to seeing various child antics, like jumping, swinging jeans, standing inside & hand-over-handing along the edge of the door until it collapses onto still-clinging child, etc.

On the other hand, I have seen tall men inflict painful & potentially serious damage on themselves, bumping into door edges which were too low for them.
And I have to be very careful to help our Toyota Yaris tailgate to open fully every time, as the gas struts are inadequate – an astonishing error by Toyota, not cured by replacements under guarantee.

Then there are lots of underground car parks which are so low that a freely-opened tailgate will be scratched on the roof or damage the wiper system.
Not to mention temporary conflicts with long things being carried on roof racks.

Obviously something is wrong.

Manufacturers are probably trying to set opening heights to some sort of best compromise where not too many tall people will scalp or blind themselves & not too many small people will be stuck with an unclosable door.
But that is ridiculous.
Tallest heads are above shortest outstretched hands, so disaster is inevitable.
Would they try to fix driving seat position to some best compromise between tall & short drivers?
Of course not, they have to face up to a little design work & cost, and provide an adjustment mechanism.

In my opinion, tailgates, of which millions are sold every year, all need 2 design improvements:
1. Simple & convenient adjustment for opening height, both long-term for owner size & short-term for car parks etc. I imagine this could be some kind of cord & cleat arrangement like you find all over sailing boats or even anoraks & might cost 1€.
2. A hanging, but non-damaging, handle so children & vertically-challenged users can also close the door. With a bit of imagination, this could be an extension of the cord from item 1 & should cost 10 cents. It should be stowable so families without short members are not unnecessarily irritated by it.

I wonder why this has not happened.

Parting thot: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Darwin

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