By on June 30, 2020

Ford

Like the server who came to your table that one time, Ford’s 2021 F-150 boasts many appealing attributes — so many, in fact, it may have you thinking about ditching your current ride for a new one.

Evolutionary on the outside and innovative within, the next-gen pickup offers owners ample space for both sleeping and work. It’s the latter feature we’re discussing today, as it seems Ford had a simple solution to its table problem all along.

According to past reports, F-150 owners aren’t hot on the idea of unsatisfying shifters that don’t require a firm grip of the user’s hand. Truck people don’t like the dials and push-buttons cropping up in sedans and CUVs — they like levers. Shifting into drive should feel like you’ve just thrown one of those comically large power switches in an old monster movie. You author understands this desire.

If a mile-wide console is something you must have in your pickup, a manly shifter may as well take up space on that surface, as there’s only so many cupholders an OEM can cram into a vehicle. But for ’21, Ford’s offering an “Interior Work Surface” option — essentially, a console lid that unfolds into, well, an interior work surface covering the entire console. To get that lever out of the way, Ford tasked its braintrust with creating a fold-down shifter. Out of sight, out of mind.

Ford

ford

However, as the 2021 F-150 retains regular and SuperCab body styles, the front bench seat isn’t dead — which means the stupidly functional but non-innovative column shifter lives on in some F-150s. There’s plenty of real estate for it.

Does an unintrusive column shifter not seem like a simpler and cheaper solution to this console-as-table problem, rather than designing a fold-away console shifter (which, in the pessimist’s view, is just another thing something can go wrong with)? Was it really necessary to create this trick shift lever? Obviously since we’re talking about the most popular and lucrative product on the market, the answer is yes. Anything capable of wowing (and wooing) buyers is, um, on the table when it comes to this profit generator.

And one supposes that console would look pretty bare without a shifter, though some high-end SUVs would beg to differ.

Given a choice, would you have preferred Ford outfitted your workspace-equipped F-150 with a tried-and-true column shifter over this fancy gear selector solution, or is the novelty of such a unit all you need to stay smiling?

[Images: Ford]

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43 Comments on “QOTD: Nowhere to Hide?...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    In comments about this on other sites, the speculation is that Ford didn’t want you to be able to use the table while driving, so chose to hide the shifter when the table is in use. The other idea was that customers wanted the console shifter, not a dial. Idk. It does seem like an extra complication, though.

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      I thought of that first answer, but there are already plenty of ways for fools to distract themselves while driving, and plonking a clipboard a laptop down on the passenger seat or on the console are just as likely either way.

      I also wonder if the dial shifter or console shifter adds anything that a column shifter lacks, such as being able to select gears 4-10.

      Overall just seems like a gimmick to get people talking. No such thing as bad publicity.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      According to what I read elsewhere the article is right in that Ford said its truck customers did not like the idea of a dial, like is used on the Expedition.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Ford didn’t want you to be able to use the table while driving”

      There’s a lot of things you shouldn’t do while driving, do we really need Ford to police all of those activities?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Column shifters worked fine for 50+ years, but hey, if we can make it complicated why not?

  • avatar
    MostlyNormal

    The new trucks with the column shifter are also available with interior work surface. It folds out of the back of the center section of the bench when it’s folded down.

    So, they did both options. I think the folding shifter for center console versions was just the solution that solves the problem and satisfies customer preferences.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Every vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission should have a column shifter. A real one, not the goofy stalk types used by Mercedes and others.

    As with so many things, auto journalists’ silly complaints are responsible for the undeserved reputation of column shifters.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      No. Some vehicles are better with it on the floor. What is so freaking bad about options?

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        I’ve yet to drive a automatic vehicle that wouldn’t be improved by a column shifter and more space in the center console.

        As for your question, if Ford was actually giving us the option, I wouldn’t be complaining. As it stands now, if I have the gall to want leather seats in my truck, I have to take the gimmicky console shifter.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Yeah you are correct. Your values should be adopted as the standard for all vehicles and everyone else is clearly wrong.

          Man that M5 with a column shfter from an Olds Delmont 88 is going to be awesome. And why stop at autos…who doesn’t want a 6 on the tree!

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            “Your values should be adopted as the standard for all vehicles and everyone else is clearly wrong.”

            In that case I have a lot more changes to make….

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            I would absolutely hate a column shifter in the Pacifica. It would just be in the way.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          That’s also what’s great about fullsize pickups. The aftermarket picks up where the OEM, leaves off or drops the ball.

          Katzkin and others offer great seat (covering) options, with airbags. Yeah they’re not giving them away, but you’re already at 40 to $50K on a mid-trim truck, minus the leather.

  • avatar

    The desire to be “now/wow” outweighs common sense. A column shifter would be fine unless, for some reason, it interferes somehow with the routing of the electrical through the steering column.

    • 0 avatar
      MostlyNormal

      It’s an electronically shifted transmission, so the column shifter would also be just sending a signal.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Honda used to use a column style shifter on the CRV that sprouted out of the dash to the right of the steering column. It was described as a chicken wing. I thought it was clever and it functioned perfectly but was out of the way of control stalks on the steering column. It occupied essentially unused real estate. I’m not a big fan of the rotary knob that Ram trucks employ but it’s undeniably an efficient use of space.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I don’t mind dial shifters, but I am not a Ford guy.

    That said, I would take a gimmicky shifter of having to look a the new GM trucks.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Once you don’t need a mechanical connection anymore (via electronic shifts and park actuation)the lever becomes a cumbersome cost addition.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Avoid the mess and get the jumpseat with column shifter, which will be available on crew cabs up to XLT.

    The work table is pointless since you have to be in Park anyway. The point is the jumpseat can be unbolted/ditched, leaving you do make your own custom “table”.

    Mine turned out to be a simple, carpeted sub-box that fits snugly, tight between the seats (firing downward). Yeah I was going out my mind over the pandemic, looking for projects (and hated the jumpseat), but it’s much taller than this Ford setup, midway between my belt and armpit, super comfortable and you lean on it like you’re at “the bar”.

    I’ll rest my right forearm on it and it puts my hand right at the 4 o’clock position on the wheel. At 32 inches long, it extends from the back of the seats to 4 inches from the dash/radio (14 inches wide), leaving room for 3 screw-in accessory cup holders.

    It’s crazy comfortable, plus you can attach anything to it like I did my phone holder and GPS. Re-carpeted black, matching my custom carpets.

    I thought it might be overbearing, but it’s just right. I don’t recommend eating while driving without it, or something like it, especially if it’s on a styrofoam to-go plate.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Actually the “bench seat” is dead, has been for decades. They call it a bench seat, 40-20-40, but they’re two independent buckets with the jumpseat/fold-down armrest the “20” and bracket-bolted between the seats.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This is simply a gimmick and an answer to a question nobody asked.

    Ford has an entire lineup of rotary shifters that are small and can be tucked out of the way opening a large area in the center console and making it more usable. But, as is typical at Ford, common sense takes a back seat to complexity so let’s design a electronic shifter that looks like our older shifters but let’s make the handle fold down so we can have a flat surface so some guy, one time, can work on a laptop.

    I think the more amazing part is Ford actually thinks the primary use of their “trucks” is work. It’s the new minivan in all reality

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      A lot of truck people don’t like dials so they are not going to piss off those customers.

      While a lot of retail trucks are sold there are a lot sold for work, you probably just don’t see them since you aren’t out and about during the day. So yeah a lot of people will use that desk daily.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It is a gimmick. But it’s also dead airspace, not good for anything the way they come traditionally. It’s clunky to use a laptop, set up your lunch, fill out invoices, and the armrest is too short.

      And why should the passenger suffer?

      They sorta got the right idea, but the way they did it, it’s not very useful and can’t be used while driving, when you need it the most. Sometimes just sitting at a light, drive-thru, etc.

      Except trucks are meant to be customized, that’s why I’ll gladly take a base truck, plus V8 and a couple three other necessities/niceties.

      Building your own “custom fab” console is already popular on older trucks, resto-mods, etc, especially if originally equipped with an actual “bench”. And they can easily be returned to “stock” for the lease return (with mint condition jumpseat or console).

      My jumpseat/armrest was just thrashed/ripped/stained after 15 years of use/abuse, but if you live in your truck 10+ hours a day, it’s a very important area to get right or wrong.

      It’s one of those things, once you fix it, there’s no going back (to normal).

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Eb
      I take it you did not read up-thread where buyers said they hated dial shifters.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    The first thing that came to my mind seeing the folding shifter was ‘hello, column shift?’ I get wanting something BEEFY in a truck, not some thing with dainty taps or a row of buttons, but I feel like this gimmick is gonna be one and done.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    You guys know, the 2020 trucks have both a column and console shifter available, right? Even if you opt for the center console and not the 40-20-40 “bench”, you can still get a column shifter. I bet the new trucks will still have them available too. They always show the console shifter because it is what the higher trims have. Doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of column shifted bench seat (well as close as you can get to a bench nowadays) out there available.

    i admit, I could have completely missed it as I’m not currently in the market so havent followed too closely, but I never saw that they were ditching the column shift. If they are, I stand corrected.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      The XLT has a console option that includes a column shifter. It is a wonderful setup that provides gobs of storage or an individual compartment for every component of your fast food lunch. I HATE CONSOLE SHIFTERS. Ford does it right with the traditional column shifter. RAM gets rid of both for a dial control. Both are better options than the console shifter.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I think the “its what the customer wants” response is interesting when they put a dial from the Fusion/Escape/Explorer into the Mustang GT500.

  • avatar
    stuki

    The silly console shifter Ford insists on for all higher F150 trims, goes exactly in the spot which all self respecting, long distance driving slobs reserve for the Cheetoz bag…..

    And, Ford being Ford, only the pimptrims get the option of the fold flat seats. As if the exact people most likely to want to sleep in their truck, were not slobs….

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Just make it voice activated already. “Hey Jeeves, we shall thenceforth being going forward.” “Jeeves, get thee to the back.” You just need to make sure Mrs. Sync is in a good mood.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I’m born in and have lived in western Canada (truck country) my whole life. Often I sit at traffic light completely surrounded by trucks, yet I have never owned one. Who can afford these things?

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Seems like a lot of extra hassle in design and manufacture, and no doubt cost, when the column shift works fine. I have it in a 2016 F150 and 2006 Tahoe, and the Tahoe has a nice big center area of bins, cubbies and cupholders that I prefer to the “floor shifter” that would otherwise take up a chunk of that space with zero added benefit. Sometimes the simplest answer really is the best answer.

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