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Ford F-150 flunks IIHS retest

by Bill Cawthon on

Ford has published a lot about the new Ford F-150 being the only pickup to earn the Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). But if you read the fine print, there’s a catch.

The rating applies only to trucks with the SuperCrew cab. Trucks with the SuperCab didn’t make the grade, and trucks with regular cabs weren’t tested. Based on the evidence, it appears that Ford tried to game the system.

Ford-F-150-Fail-Web

The IIHS normally tests only the best-selling configuration of a particular vehicle. For the F-150, the SuperCrew was chosen, because it accounts for around 70% of sales. Its qualified as a Top Safety Pick, the only full-size pickup to do so — partly because it’s unique in having undergone the full battery of tests. The IIHS tested the new F-150 first because it’s the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

Normally, the designation is applied to all versions of a vehicle, even those not tested. However, after Automotive News reported that there were structural differences between the SuperCrew and other body styles, the IIHS made the unprecedented decision to test the SuperCab version, and it had very different results.

The SuperCab only qualified for a “Marginal” rating in the Small Overlap test, with a “Poor” structural rating. “Marginal” is one step above “Poor,” the lowest possible rating.

The SuperCab showed a much higher likelihood of injury to the driver’s right thigh, lower left leg and left foot, with the steering column coming dangerously close to the test dummy’s chest.

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The IIHS’s chief research officer, David Zuby, wrote that “Ford added structural elements to the crew cab’s front frame to earn a good small overlap rating and a Top Safety Pick award, but didn’t do the same for the extended cab. That shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab. It doesn’t.”

The “structural elements” are four steel bars welded to the frame in the front wheel wells on SuperCrew pickups — and not used on any other cab style.  When the report went public, a Ford spokesman wrote that “Ford is evaluating possible changes to the extended cab for small offset performance.”

The IIHS also looked at the cost to repair the F-150’s aluminum body. The IIHS used 10 mph crash tests with the new F-150 SuperCrew and the steel-bodied 2014 SuperCrew, crashing the front left corner of the new pickup into the right rear corner of the old one at a 15% overlap. Then they reversed the roles of the trucks. In both tests, the aluminum-bodied F-150 had more extensive damage; repair costs were 26% higher and took longer to complete.

Ford has been called out for gaming the system to make promotional claims, from overstated EPA mileage to stripping a F-450 to allow it to squeak by the weight limits for a Class 3 pickup to boast of “Best In Class” towing. This time, the games could have serious real-world consequences for buyers.  IIHS article

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 just-auto.com, 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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