Fancy Tailgates Are the New Pickup Truck Battleground

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Forget towing capacity and gross vehicle weight. If your tailgate doesn’t dance, you’re just another also-ran in the pickup world.  

The strongest HD pickups can tow up to 35,000 pounds, about the weight of ten two-row crossovers. The most frugal get better fuel economy than the compact crossovers of a decade ago. Top pickup trims have become the de facto luxury vehicle for millions of Americans. There is nothing left for truck makers to do but focus on the rear end. Specifically, the tailgate.

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General Motors has been leading the pack and is now running two advertisements highlighting the tailgates of its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. The most notable is the GMC Sierra advert dubbed “Anthem,” which shows all of the other old-fashioned one-piece tailgates on lesser trucks being removed and thrown in the scrap heap in favor of the six-position MultiPro tailgate on its newest 2019 Sierra.

It’s a bold advertising scheme by GM, particularly since its top-selling truck, the Chevy Silverado has one of those old-fashioned, one-piece tailgates. Not to worry, Chevy is out ahead of the GMC smackdown with its own advertisement, it calls “Tailgates.” Chevy’s promotion casts its one-piece tailgate, now with power lift, as nostalgic and at the same time, modern. We like that in the commercial Chevy shows a mom lift and close her vintage Chevy’s tailgate with no trouble, yet the spot ends with a farmer using his fob to automatically lift the gate. Either women were stronger back then, or men are weaker today.

Fashionably late to the tailgate dance party is the new Ram 1500. We can’t help but think that Ram may have rushed its new tailgate to market. Why do we think so? One reason is that this new tailgate has no name. No trademark. No clever tag. Ram simply calls it a “multifunction tailgate.”

Ram’s tailgate video is dubbed “One Step Ahead.” Like the GMC Sierra, the Ram now has a fold-down step as just one of its many tricks. Ram’s tailgate doesn’t just fold down, it also splits 60-40 in the middle and can be opened from either end as a swing-away style gate. Ram says this is an industry first.

2012 Honda Ridgeline

Honda may not see it that way. It’s Ridgeline pickup’s tailgate has been swinging to the side or down for two-generations.

Pickup trucks have now transcended power, torque, towing, fuel economy, and size as differentiators. In today’s pickup race, your new truck better have a fancy tailgate or it is so two-thousand and late.