For years, it was one of Kevin Blaser’s “pet peeves:” There was no designated place to set his coffee cup or a few shotgun shells on the open tailgate of his Ford pickup truck when he was out hunting.
Thanks to his insistence and some good timing, the new version of the Ford F-150 pickup will have a couple of round indentations that should solve the problem. The improvement all happened late in the game, as the truck was nearing production.
The idea was a long time in the making. Blaser, a stamping process and design manager for Ford at its Product Development Center in Dearborn, Mich., says he and his buddies inevitably end up hanging around the back of a pickup truck when he’s out bird hunting. There’s “no flat spot for your coffee” and if your shotgun shells roll off the back of the tailgate, “I’m nosing around in the grass trying to get them,” Blaser says.
He says he noticed the issue again when Ford unveiled the new aluminum-bodied version of the F-150 last January in Detroit: no place on the open tailgate to set a beverage, but soon, he saw an opportunity.
A month later, he says a new tool to make the tailgates was being created and “I knew we had this very small window” where he could suggest his idea. After all, “How can we not have cup holders in the tailgate?” he asks. The chief engineer bought into the idea and others fell in line.
It was a change considered highly unusual within Ford because it happened so late in the truck’s design process. It does show that engineers and designers could be quick to adopt a nifty idea, especially if it weren’t overly complicated. The whole process, he says, took about eight weeks until a prototype was ready for testing.
So if you’re ever hanging out next to the open tailgate of the new 2015 Ford pickup, wondering where to set your drink, look for the two big round indentations. Then think of Blaser, the innovator.
“For whatever reason, it struck a chord with me,” he says.