Midgate answers call for vehicle flexibility

The Midgate, a cargo door in the passenger cabin that enlarges the pickup bed on the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT, is more than a novelty, General Motors officials say.

'I think you're going to see a lot more work done with this,' GM Vice President for North America Engineering Jim Queen said at a recent press event. 'The Midgate is going to show up in its existing form or in a modified form.

'The vehicle makes quite a different statement, depending on how it's configured. Reconfigurable vehicles are something that we're paying a lot of attention to.'

Crossover vehicles and pickups will offer options such as the cabin cargo door, as well as reconfigurable seating, storage areas and roofs, according to Scott Whybrew, GM executive director for structures and closures, North American product development.

GM hears a lot from customers who want the best features from different types of vehicles, he said.

'The Midgate was born of customer comments saying, 'I really like having a sport-utility, and I really like having a truck, but I can't afford to have both,' ' Whybrew said.

This year GM has unveiled several concepts with reconfigurable features.

* Buick Bengal roadster: At first, the Bengal looks like a two-passenger sports car, but a large area behind the front seats is covered by a removable tonneau cover. There is space to store a set of golf clubs or, when opened, seating for two passengers. The Bengal is expected to go into production, possibly as early as the 2003 calendar year.

* Chevrolet Borrego: The vehicle looks like a two-passenger pickup. But by sliding the Midgate rearward, snapping a roof into place and raising the floor, the Borrego becomes a four-passenger vehicle.

* GMC Terracross: Moveable glass roof panels create a closed sport-utility or an open-air pickup-like vehicle.

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