“Waste of money”. My friend’s verdict was clear. But I think he’s wrong about electric tailgates, and with time he’d agree…

MY MATE AND I were watching our long-term Santa Fe‘s electric tailgate automatically close. “Just something else to go wrong,” he said. “How much effort is it to close a boot-lid anyway?  People these days,”he continued, his voice trailed off, lost in contemplation of what society had become…
I can see his point. When you’re used to doing something, having it automated can often seem rather pointless. This is especially so when the automation has disadvantages such as extra complexity and weight, and in the case of a tailgate you can slam it shut faster than the motors can. But he’s still wrong, and history is our ever reliable guide as to why.
Think of all the things you said you’d never need, and now you can’t do without. My first car was a Ford Escort, a 1.3L front-drive model. It had a choke, did not boast central or remote locking and the windows were manually operated. None of those omissions bothered 17-year-old me at the time, but now I find inserting a key in the ignition tedious, let alone actually putting the key into the door. I wouldn’t want to do without Bluetooth audio streaming either and I’m a huge fan of active cruise control.  
Yet those are all developments that solve immediately obvious needs, so they’re generally welcomed.  Inventions like electric tailgates are a bit different, because you think they’re pointless – and I must admit I was a bit skeptical – but in fact many of them are genuinely useful.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been in and out of cars for more than 15 years writing about the good and bad points and, I for one, stood up, well, actually I stopped chewing on the end of a pen to blurt out ‘who really uses Bluetooth,’ in defence of a Land Rover decision, on a revision of the Freelander 2, to make Bluetooth an extra cost option. Big deal, I thought. Might have been a bit wrong on that one… That said, while I do like technology, I do think our cars are becoming too technical. What was once deemed as transport to and from home to wherever you needed to go, is now an extension of your bedroom/loungeroom/virtual existence and, I don’t care what anyone says, being able to update your Facebook status via your car is just plain dumb. Right, I’ll replace my tinfoil hat and let you get back to your regularly scheduled blog… Ed.
We had the Santa Fe on a rainy, cold weekend out in the forest and it was a boon to be able to run to the car, open the tailgate before you got there, grab whatever you needed and sprint back to shelter while the boot closed behind you. Small things, but I’m now a fan and that surprised me more than it should.  And heated seats tend to attract scorn, but frankly, they’re great on wintry mornings.
If you think about, we’ve all been there. Hands up who said they didn’t need a mobile phone? Yep, you with your snout in your smartphone, that’s who. Who said they’d never bother with an automatic? Thought so.  And some of the biggest Facebook users I know are one-timer deniers.
So the point of this little tale – there may be some weird and wonderful feature you sneer at, but there’s a very good chance it’s actually going to be useful so when you’re shopping for a new car don’t automatically discount capabilities you haven’t really used and don’t think you’ll “need”.  
What features can you no longer do without?  Any you’ve tried and really do think are a waste of time?



Tyre Tales 5: Motorsport is tough on tyres


2015 Holden Trax Active special edition on-sale


  1. your mate is typically thoughtless about having an electric tailgate. My wife is small and not getting any younger, and an electric tailgate on our next car will be a huge benefit to her. Perhaps your mate should start using his/her legs and feet more by walking instead of driving, never start the engine, that would be less things to go wrong with his/her car…a typical mindless comment devoid of any intelligent use of the brain….oh, I forgot..using the brain might break it.

  2. It’s not a waste of time for me as I’m disabled and a wheelchair user so it’s a essential for me!

  3. Electric tailgates have their use but otherwise, they are just a gimmick. The number of times you see some guy pressing the button and watching that slow tailgate closing is ridiculous. It’s much faster and most efficient to use your hands, pulling the tailgate down. Now opening with gestures, when it works makes sense if your hands are full but honestly how many times does that happen? It’s the typical feature of trying to find a solution for something that does not require it but will sell to commercially driven shopaholics thinking “I want this” rather than asking themselves “Do I really need it?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also