By on February 17, 2012

No gullwing or “falcon wing” doors here. Ford’s new B-Max MPV has a unique solution to the problem of getting into a minivan without making a fool of yourself – pillarless sliding doors.

Rather than include a B-Pillar, Ford is using a new high strength steel that is strong enough to withstand the stresses that would normally require a B-pillar. The upside is 5 feet of unobstructed space that can be used for easy access to the rear seat, or for loading large objects. Only world markets will get the B-MAX, but this technology should filter down to other vehicles in the future. Once the B-MAX is unveiled at the Mobile World Congress Geneva Auto Show, we’ll have more information on how Ford pulled this off.

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52 Comments on “Ford Shows Off Pillarless Sliding Doors, Avoids Bird Naming References...”


  • avatar
    JCraig

    You still have to duck your head to get in the back seat. The ‘falcon wing’ door opens up the roof so you can just step into the back…

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    When laser was first invented, some scientists called it ‘a solution in search of a problem’. Same here.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Big mistake Ford. Anytime anybody sees convenience in a people mover, it’ll be considered a minivan. Make it as difficult as possible to get kids in and out of and you’ll have a winner.

  • avatar

    I think this is really neat.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    how safe are these “doors” in case of a side collision?

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Maybe that’s why it won’t be sold here…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Probably reasonably so. It’s probably safer than a normal, b-pillared car from a decade or so ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Reptarcar

      After the initial thought of “O, that’s pretty cool”, my head went right to the safety as well.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Not only did I think that, but I also wonder how rigid the body will be.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      No idea, but its not really a pillar-less design, the pillar is built-in to the rear door and moves with it.. the large lips on the top and bottom of the opening would take the side impact loads. Probably the front door shares the load also.

      The biggest advantage would be in getting out of this small car, your feet wont snag under the front seats and the B pillar when exiting the rear.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      Wow! Great question. Because European safety regs are decades behind North America, right? NOT!

      And Ford of course will build a vehicle that’s all floppy and all because, you know, they left out the B-pillar.

      Fuck’s sake, some people comment just for the…..um….why exactly DO they bother?

      Yeah, yeah, I get the irony….this post is a waste of bandwidth too…I just get tired of seeing moronic comments…who CARES if someone is “worried about safety”?

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        Wholly agree. Many readers see something different and automatically assume it must be less safe, heavier, more awkward, and generally worse than whatever norm they’re used to. These are also the people who search out McDonalds when travelling abroad. I mean really, there’s no way that “foreign” food can be safe, right?

  • avatar
    afflo

    Is that the same as a Mazda5? I seem to recall ford having the C-max on the same platform but a different execution, but this looks VERY similar to a Mazda5.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    This seems only sightly more useful than the 3-door Toyota Porte’s sliding passenger-side door:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Porte

    I always thought sliding doors weighed more and were costlier to fix than regular doors, and if that holds true here, on such a small car (barely longer than a 5-door Fiesta, from the looks of it) they seem a little superfluous.

    The only thing b-pillars would “obstruct” would be the sides of the front seats, it seems.

    • 0 avatar
      Varezhka

      Actually, Toyota has been doing the pillar-less sliding doors for the past 14 years with the recently discontinued Toyota Raum. It actually does make ingress and egress a lot easier in a smaller car like this.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Raum

      However, in a tighter parking situation the Toyota Porte’s solution is a lot more convenient.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    “high strength steel” is great… for strength. doesn’t matter how strong the steel is, stiffness of a member is a geometric property, and I hope this agressive design doesn’t flop or fatigue over time. I’d give this chassis a few years of real world service before i trust the computer models.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      you said “stiffness of a member” :D

      • 0 avatar
        obbop

        ““stiffness of a member” ”

        MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!

        The big kids at TTAC are getting nasty again!!!!!!!!!!

        Can I hang around anyway?

        I won’t repeat their naughty words and praises or show them the pics sis puts on Facebook.

        I promise!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Most of the time, the doors are closed. If the doors add strength to the rest of the structure, you won’t have that issue. Besides, crash tests aren’t done with doors open.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I doubt the doors will be load-carrying, at least to the degree that it would make a difference.

        To be effective at that, the contact points would need sufficient preload that they prevent separation during loading. A connection that tight would lead to a very high force for latching the door.

        It’s not impossible, but because of convenience and simplicity, I don’t see that happening.

    • 0 avatar

      “stiffness of a member is a geometric property”

      Nope. Stiffness is affected by heat treat as well.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_treatment
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annealing_(metallurgy)

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Neither of those articles mentions stiffness, rigidity, or even modulus.

        “Stiffness” or modulus (specifically Young’s modulus) in engineering technically refers to a material’s inherent resistance to deformation. It is a function of the energy of the atomic bonds, i.e., how much work it takes to pull the atoms apart. Heat treatment does very little to stiffness since it doesn’t do anything to these atomic bonds. Crystal size/orientation, dislocations, and even precipitates don’t have a meaningful affect on stiffness.

        “Rigidity” is the word that should have been used. This refers to a structure’s resistance to deformation. A large pipe is more rigid than a small pipe because of its geometry, albeit the material has the same stiffness.

        The thing about using high-strength steel is that you you typically would use it so that you don’t need as much to achieve the same strength for the structure. This is good because it drops weight and takes up less space.

        However, using less steel means the structure will be less rigid (unless they switch to something like thin-walled tubes, but to match the rigidity it would need to occupy a larger envelope) because less material -> less cross-section area -> lower area moment (I) -> less rigidity.

        There are design techniques to improve rigidity, such as direct load paths through columns/ties (compression/tension) instead of beams (bending). They can increase bracing to that all the beams are shorter. (In this case a side opening sans pillar means the beams are longer.) Or, heaven forbid, the deflections they are reducing are in the plastic region, in which case added strength would reduce them. But if they have plastic deformations, they’re in the low-cycle fatigue range, and that’s a very bad thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I just got a ride from a neighbor in his 1963 Buick Wildcat 4-door hardtop, no B pillar. The roof hasn’t sagged yet after 49 years, at least not bad enough to affect the doors or windows.

      That brings me to my point: if this layout is possible with “new” high strength steel, will the 4-door hardtop be making a comeback?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      They may have to increase the depth of the channels running longitudinally and the joints to the A and C-pillars to compensate for the lack of a B-pillar, but there’s no reason this design can’t be adequately stiff. It’s still an enclosed section with a large area, and that’s the key for a stiff structure. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of making the outer “walls” and their joints stiff and strong enough. It’s likely that the same structure could be made just as stiff with less weight by maintaining a B-pillar, but that doesn’t mean the design won’t work, or that the weight increase will be excessive. If it takes an extra ten or twenty pounds of slightly more expensive steel to maintain the same stiffness, that may be worth it to some.

      We probably agree that the term “high strength steel” is effectively a buzz word given the depth of information that typically accompanies it!

  • avatar
    Fusion

    While this is certainly visually impressive, I just don’t see how it is in any way more practical than a normal sliding door. I have never thought that the B-Pillar was in my way when entering a vehicle with a sliding door…

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I hope the beancounting, insular bums at Honda take note. Year after year they never lifted a finger to fix the Element’s several flaws — chief among these being related to the door arrangement — and then they dropped it altogether. It wasn’t the Element concept that failed, it was the company.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/04/curbside-class-nissan-stanza-wagon

    • 0 avatar
      Hobie-wan

      Indeed. I miss the metallic blue one my mother had. It had a sunroof and was manual as well. Stupid jackass in a month old truck without insurance with his cruise set to 80 plowed into the back while my mom was driving the posted speed of 55 and totaled it. = [

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Dang,

      You beat me to it, i was gonna say, the Nissan Stanza wagon, another of those 80′s tall, boxy wagons I’ve always liked.

  • avatar
    JulioCMO

    I have a question…what about body rigidity ? I mean, the Renault Avantime and the Mazda RX-8 (both without B-pillars) had a huge body reinforcement at the bottom of the chassi, that’s why they were so chassi-thick (and quite heavy) compared to other similar models.

    I see the same problem with that Track apostrophe Ster from Kia, I know it is just a concept car but it’s kinda weird the fact that people are forgetting about the basics… not criticizing though, don’t get me wrong, just making a point.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I like this. I don’t like the twankie dueces it rides on, or the faux-truck nose, but the concept is a good one.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    The windows in those doors need to open, making the vehicle appear less like a microvan.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Wait until the first time your kid closes the doors in the wrong order.

    Besides side impact issues, they will end up rattletrap in a year or two.

  • avatar

    There’s no shortage of predicate designs from the last ~10 years for this configuration. Best example is the RX8. They’re just using a slider in place of a suicide door config.

    Basically, they build the B-pillar into the door, so that once it’s closed it’s structurally part of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Except the doors on the RX8 are short, so the total opening is more like a coup. On this one, both doors are full size. Also, see my post above for why I don’t believe that the door will be a structural part of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        You should tell Ford that this car won’t pass side-crash standards before they go to the expense and trouble of producing it. They’ll be so thankful to you for your home-made engineering critique.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        srogers, where did I say that it won’t pass crash tests? You do realize that body rigidity and crash-worthiness are two very different things, right?

        There are ways to pass crash tests without structural doors. I know that, and Ford knows that. My expectations are that the body will lack rigidity because the cost of using the doors in that way that is too high.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I like it a lot.

    As for safety, I’m sure it’s as safe as any other vehicle. Ford can put a lot of strength into those doors. The same questions were raised when Chrysler introduced dual sliding doors in 1996.

    But about the picture: a) with those heels, that girl can’t be the driver, and b) with that shape, she can’t be the mom. :)

  • avatar
    Slab

    Do you have to open the front door before the back? That was the problem with the Element, FJ Cruiser, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Good point, but I’d bet the slider is a able to slide with the front door closed. I have to admit, if I were hauling kids, i wouldn’t be too fond of my Element.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Not really a new idea, mitsu and Nissan did it in the 80s. This is prob a better design though.

    Did you notice the smooth jams? Looks like the attachments are in the top or bottom. I think this will allow either door to open independently.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    JCraig intimated that with the pillarless design, as it won’t be sold here and I have to disagree on the grounds that this design can be made very safe for either Europe or here in the US.

    This is because they both have pretty stringent crash testing for all vehicles and from what I can tell, the overall results for both Europe and here are quite similar so cars built in Europe are about as safe as what’s sold here for the most part and it’s how they get to the similar results that differed, sometimes quite markedly.

  • avatar
    musiccitymafia

    I like it purely because assembly costs go down.

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    Nope! I don’t like it a bit. It’s new, it’s different, it’s not like anything else on the market. It doesn’t use the same technology as every other car available now! I don’t trust it, not one bit. By god, if Studebaker still sold the 1920 “Big Six”, that’s exactly what I would buy, because everything else is, pardon my French, SCARY!


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