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Ford C-Max Features a World First Hands Free Liftgate

The battle to capture the hearts and minds of soccer moms with hot, new, hipster minivans has been ratcheted up a notch with the introduction of the 2012 Ford C-Max and the world’s first hands free lift gate.

In advance of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, Ford has taken the wraps off the Ford C-Max, a minivan disguised as a compact utility vehicle that has some family-friendly technology.

The most amazing piece of technology solves the age-old problem of how to open the rear lift gate when one’s hands are full of groceries. Ford’s answer is the world’s first hands’ free lift gate. With your key fob in your pocket, you walk up to the C-Max, make a quick swiping motion with your leg under the bumper, and voila, your lift gate opens. It’s an amazingly simple solution. As Frank Davis, incoming vice president of product development for Ford of Europe put it, “What a wow for our customers.”

Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s global vice president of product development, tried to claim the C-Max is “an aspirational alternative to a minivan,” but let’s not kid ourselves. This is a mini-minivan in the genre of the Mazda Mazda5. It has sliding rear passenger doors and it seats seven. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck.

But to paraphrase “Seinfeld,” – not that there’s anything wrong with that. This is the alternative to the behemoth SUVs favored by soccer moms in suburbia. It’s fuel efficient at an expected 40 mpg highway, affordable to drive, and looks nothing like the dread-inspiring minivans moms of all ages hate to be seen driving.

Another innovative piece of technology is the second row. It seats three normally but if access is needed to the third row, the middle seating position folds up and stores beneath the right passenger seat. When not in use, the right passenger seat should offer lots of storage space for protecting precious items.

The real question that arises from the introduction of the C-Max to North America (it has been on sale as the second generation C-Max in Europe since July) is what it means for the second-generation Mazda5. Mazda has been fairly tight lipped about its mini-minivan. Its prosperity could be threatened if it lacks a “wow” factor when it is goes on sale in January. So far, the only new feature associated with it is power sliding doors. It already offers storage in the passenger seat but it’s a six-passenger vehicle. Plus, without the hands free lift gate, it could quickly be deemed irrelevant.

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