The unquestioned functionality of a pickup truck lies in its bed.
Is there any vehicle architecture on the road today that makes it easier to load or unload bags of topsoil, hockey equipment, lumber or other bulky items?
German supplier Webasto AG, best known for its roof modules and convertible tops, unveiled at the recent Frankfurt auto show a concept that lends pickup-truck functionality to a conventional SUV body style.
Webasto does not pretend that its Hattrick concept vehicle, derived from theTouareg, is a pickup truck in SUV clothing. A pickup it cannot be because of its relatively compact size.
But the back end of the Hattrick is designed to replicate that functionality as closely as possible.
The liftgate opens electrically in two ways. First is the traditional configuration, in which the gate and backlight raise as one unit. The liftgate also separates into two components, allowing the backlight to raise on its own, while the gate swings down in the opposite direction, laying flat like the gate on a conventional pickup.
With the gate down, a unique cargo storage box behind the backseat retracts electrically on rails at the push of a button. Load up the sturdy cargo box and push the button again to retract it back into the vehicle before closing the gate and the backlight.
To some, the retracting cargo box may be extravagant. But the many people who do frequent loading and unloading or suffer from back pain might find this functionality worth the price.
The feature also could save on dry cleaning bills, as the retracting bed prevents clothing from coming in contact with the rear bumper, as frequently happens when loading a conventional trunk or SUV cargo hold.
The Hattrick gets its name from three unique Webasto-designed features on the modified Touareg. The first two are the liftgate and the retracting cargo bed.
The third feature is a roof module engineered to keep heat outside on hot days, while allowing plenty of natural light and fresh air when desired.
An electrically driven sunshade runs along rails below the large glass panorama roof that extends over both rows of seats. Part of the 2-piece glass panorama roof also slides open like a traditional sunroof.
Also at the Frankfurt auto show were two new production vehicles featuring convertible roofs from Oasys, a Webasto subsidiary.
The roof on theEos is the first to feature five moving pieces, including a sliding roof. A 3-piece retractable hardtop, also from Oasys, will appear on the Volvo C70 convertible, which also bowed at the show.
Two new Mercedes vehicles, the R-Class and S-Class, will be available in the future with optional panorama roofs from Webasto.
The Hattrick represents Webasto's first recent concept derived from an active production vehicle. Previous cars for the 2001 and 2003 Frankfurt exhibitions were independent, original designs from the ground up.
Its Welcome concept car at the 2001 Frankfurt show had a similar liftgate system that allowed for the cargo hold to retract rearward. In 2004, Webasto updated the design with its Welcome 2 concept car.