TBT: Look Ma, No Hands – Ford Debuts Innovative Liftgate

Nov 16, 2023

Ford is celebrating a century of tailgate innovation, and one of those great advances that made our customers’ lives easier came in 2011, when Ford introduced an industry-first hands-free liftgate. The new technology meant owners no longer had to drop what they were carrying to access the cargo area.

The technology, first launched on the Ford C-MAX and then popularized by the Ford Escape, is triggered by a gentle leg motion under the vehicle’s rear bumper, which automatically unlocks and opens the hatch. It is enabled by a pair of sensors, similar to technology used in video games, located in the bumper that detect an owner’s shin and leg motion, as well as the presence of the vehicle’s key fob. The same kicking motion is used to close the liftgate, as well. The Escape became the first SUV to employ gesture-based technology when it launched in 2013.

Making customers’ lives easier

“The hands-free power liftgate is yet another innovative Ford technology that makes customers’ lives easier,” said then-Escape brand manager Jason Sprawka. “New Escape owners will be able to load their vehicle without ever having to set packages or gear down.”

Ford rigorously tested the hands-free liftgate in dozens of scenarios and environmental conditions, including heavy rains and with moving objects like rolling balls, shopping carts, and running dogs, to ensure that it only opens when expected. 

With this new feature and other updates including a sleek new design, improved fuel economy and enhanced cargo capacity, the 2013 Ford Escape quickly became the first small utility ever to sell more than 150,000 vehicles in the first half of any year, outpacing the industry growth rate in the segment.

Less stress in Texas

On its arrival, the hands-free liftgate was one of a record 60 new technologies Ford had introduced in recent years. It was attributed with helping boost Escape sales in coastal and southern U.S. markets. Accordingly, the feature was reported to be most popular in the Dallas area, with a take rate of 62% in that market – more than 20% higher than the national average. Other popular markets for the hands-free liftgate included Charlotte, Miami, Memphis and Orlando.

The hands-free liftgate is just one example of how Ford’s commitment to customers has been reflected in improvements in tailgate performance and capability. Click here to see more innovations like this!

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