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IIHS Retest of 2015 Ford F-150 Uncovers Safety Discrepancies in Lineup

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/30/2015 Kelly Pleskot

The 2015 Ford F-150 crew cab earned "Good" ratings in all tests conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, but there's a big caveat. IIHS says that Ford "shortchanges" some buyers by equipping certain F-150s with protective front-end structural elements and not others. Extended cab models, which don't include the protective steel bars, scored just "Marginal" in the small overlap test.

For vehicles with multiple body styles like the F-150, IIHS typically only evaluates the best-selling version. That is why IIHS initially only scheduled the crew cab model, which accounts for 83 percent of all F-150 sales, to undergo testing. This model nabbed top ratings in all categories, including small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests. Later, IIHS went against its standard practice and opted to bring in an additional F-150 model.

"After we tested the crew cab in the spring, questions were raised about the extended cab's ability to match the crew cab's good small overlap performance," said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer, in a release. "We did some initial analysis and decided to test the extended cab, too."

The extended cab scored top marks in all categories, except when it came to the small overlap test. In this crash evaluation, the dummy's legs were jammed against the instrument panel, leading IIHS to conclude there would be moderate risks of injuries to the driver's right thigh, lower left leg, and left foot in a similar real-world crash. Meanwhile, the dummy's head barely made contact with the front airbag before hitting the instrument panel.

Apparently, the point of contention lies in four simple steel bars. While not included on extended cab models, these structures placed in the front wheel wells on the crew cab helped the F-150 earn the first ever Top Safety Pick rating for a pickup truck. This accolade is what Ford is advertising, but the IIHS has another message. In a statement, the organization said that not including the protective structures on every model "shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab." When speaking with Automotive News, IIHS' Zuby elaborates a little further.

“I think automakers are trying to design the vehicles to offer the best protection for their customers,” he said. “But occasionally, we do see evidence that maybe they are trying to get a good rating in a test, maybe without looking for a completely holistic solution.”

Ford F 150 Supercab Iihs Testing After Small Impact© Provided by MotorTrend Ford F 150 Supercab Iihs Testing After Small Impact In reaction to these findings, Ford spokesman Mike Levine says the company is adding "countermeasures" to the SuperCab and Regular Cab to improve small overlap performance, though it's still evaluating which specific changes it will make. He also says the 2015 F-150 program was well underway when the small overlap test was introduced in 2012.

In addition to concerns about the extended cab model, IIHS also raised questions regarding the safety of the F-150's aluminum body. To test it out, IIHS compared the F-150 crew cab to the previous-gen steel-bodied model. Engineers crashed the front left corner of the new F-150 into the right rear corner of the 2014 F-150 at a 15 percent overlap, and then switched it to test the steel pickup running into the back of the aluminum one. The findings may surprise you: the aluminum F-150 suffered more damage than the steel model, and total repair costs for the front and rear damage were 26 percent higher.

Meanwhile, Ford simply disagrees. Citing data from Assured Performance, Levine said real-world repair costs for the 2015 F-150 are comparable to or less than other full-size pickups, and average $869 less than last year's F-150.

Source: IIHS, Ford, Automotive News (Subscription required)

Ford F 150 Supercab Iihs Testing© Provided by MotorTrend Ford F 150 Supercab Iihs Testing Ford F 150 Supercab During Iihs Testing© Provided by MotorTrend Ford F 150 Supercab During Iihs Testing

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