Ford F-150 struggles in crash test results

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Research


The latest crash test results for the Ford F-150 show that body styles lead to much different outcomes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recorded top marks for the F-150 crew cab, earning it a coveted Top Safety Pick designation. But the extend cab variation garnered just a Marginal rating in the challenging small overlap front crash.

This newer test has been tough for many models. It concentrates crash forces over just 25-percent of the vehicle front when the test car strikes a rigid pole-like barrier at 40 mph. The notable finding here is that the occupant protection varies widely within this model range.

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Where the F-150 extended cab came up short was in allowing compressed structure to intrude into the passenger cabin, earning a Poor structure rating. IIHS test findings show that the toepan, parking brake, and brake pedal were pushed by 10-13 inches toward the driver, and the dashboard was jammed against the crash-test dummy’s legs. Further, the steering column was pushed back nearly eight inches, coming “dangerously close” to the dummy’s chest.

“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,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. He added, “In a small overlap front crash like this, there’s no question you’d rather be driving the crew cab than the extended cab F-150.”

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The Institute traditionally tests just one body style for a given model, but because of the popularity of the F-150, even its second most-popular variation outsells most other vehicles on the market. Therefore, IIHS tested two variations. These test findings are the first among a new group of large pickup trucks being evaluated this year. The safety organization says it plans to test multiple configurations of other trucks, as well.

In response to these findings, a Ford spokesperson explained, “The F-150 program was well under way when this test mode was introduced. We addressed the IIHS small overlap front crash in the 2015 F-150 SuperCrew—which accounts for 83 percent of 2015 F-150 retail sales —and are adding countermeasures in the SuperCab and Regular Cab in the 2016 model year.”

IIHS gives both F-150 cab configurations a Basic rating for front crash prevention. Neither is eligible for the more stringent Top Safety Pick+ designation, as the optional forward-collision warning system does not have automatic braking.

All three F-150 cab types were given top five-star ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for front and side crash protection. (They earned four stars for rollover protection.) Of course, the test methodology differs between the organizations, and the IIHS small overlap frontal test is much more difficult to pass than the 35-mph, full-frontal crash test NHTSA conducts.

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There has been great interest in the extensive use of aluminum in the Ford F-150, an engineering breakthrough that helped the truck to shave about 500 lbs. of weight. As IIHS points out, the body may be aluminum, but the underlying frame that is so vital to crash-test performance remains steel.

Repair comparison

IIHS also conducted tests to compare repair costs between a steel 2014 F-150 and an aluminum 2015 F-150. Both trucks were crashed into one another at 10 mph—twice—given equal treatment to front and rear corners.

In both scenarios, the aluminum F-150 suffered more damage. In total, the necessary repairs were 26-percent greater for the 2015 truck, based on work conducted at a Ford dealership certified to perform the repairs.

Repair costs

IIHS explains that the 2015 F-150 cost more to repair due to extra time needed on the front and additional parts needed on the rear.

Ford disagrees with the findings. In a statement, the company said, “Real-world repair costs for the 2015 F-150 to date are comparable to or less than other full-size pickups and an average $869 more affordable to repair than last year’s F-150.” (Read our preview report on the real costs of repairing a Ford F-150.)

Not all Ford dealerships or independent mechanics are trained in aluminum repair. F-150 owners in need of a qualified body shop can use the Ford.com locator tool to find qualified locations in their area.

Read our complete Ford F-150 road test.

Jeff Bartlett

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