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Ford’s towing claims: brag or bluff?

by Bill Cawthon on

In today’s print edition of Automotive News, Larry Vellequette wrote about one more facet of the ongoing battle for bragging rights among pickup manufacturers.

This time, Ram is engaged in a tussle with Ford over top towing rights. Ford claims the championship over the Ram 3500, saying its 4X4 crew cab heavy-duty pickup can tow 31,200 pounds, 1,200 more than the Ram 3500 regular cab 4X2, which Chrysler maintains has “best-in-class” towing.

It seems that Ford has rigged the system. The truck they are using for comparison is the F-450 Super Duty, which by most any reckoning is a Class 4 truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 pounds.


The Ram is a Class 3 truck with a GVWR under 14,000 pounds and it competes with the Ford F-350 and the Silverado/Sierra 3500.

Ford is the only company that offers a Class 4 pickup. The only direct comparison one could make is with the out-of production, and over-the-top, International CXT — but Ford probably wouldn’t like that comparison; the CXT could tow 40,000 pounds.

Ford claims, with an amazingly straight face, that the F-450 pickup is nothing more than an F-350 with some tweaks. Those must be some tweaks as the F-450 Chassis Cab has a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,500 pounds, which is technically Class 5 territory, and it doesn’t have a pickup bed.

So is the F-450 Super Duty pickup an F-450 or not? And, if not, why is Ford using the Class 4 designator on it?

Truck classes are based on GVW. It’s pretty cut-and-dried. However, where Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC use the curb weight plus maximum payload to calculate their gross weights, Ford games the system by not counting certain items that could be deleted, such as the spare tire, jack, radio, and center console. Ford doesn’t claim those items have ever been deleted from an F-450 order, just that they could be. The 154 pounds of these items brings the weight just under the 14,000-pound limit.

In Ford’s own trailer-towing guide, the maximum trailer weight for the 2014 F-450 pickup is 24,700 pounds. And, unlike Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC, Ford won’t be implementing SAE standards until 2016 for Super Duty trucks.

As veteran writer Larry Vellequette pointed out, truck bragging rights are worth big bucks: millions of them. But in a high-stakes game, brags can be exposed as bluffs when the other player calls your hand. And bluffing isn’t worth anything at all when you’re called on it, and don’t have the cards to back it up.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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