Crash test results a blow to Ford’s new aluminum F-150

30 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Aluminum Ford F-150 gets mixed crash test results, costs more to fix: IIHS.

A crash test of Ford’s new all-aluminum, F-150 extended cab model didn’t turn out well, according to results published by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. When the truck hit a 5-foot rigid barrier at 40 miles-per-hour — a setup meant to imitate a partial head-on collision — it crunched the front driver area to a point that “seriously compromised the driver’s survival space,” IIHS said.

That means buyers of the truck, the first to use the lighter-weight metal extensively, probably will pay more in out-of-pocket expenses after a crash and might ultimately have higher insurance premiums, the insurance trade group said. But more importantly, they dismissed warnings from skeptics who have suggested the first pickup featuring aluminum panels is not strong enough to protect passengers. The better-selling F-150 crew cab received a top safety pick award from the insurer-funded group after the same tests showed the smaller cab better preserved survival space for the driver. “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. “That shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab. But while doing well in most of the tests, the smaller and lighter extended cab, or “SuperCab,” earned only a marginal rating for occupant protection in a small overlap front crash.

IIHS said it hasn’t yet tested GM’s 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Ram pickup. “We’re very proud of the performance of the SuperCrew” that passed the small overlap test, Nair said. “This certainly answers the safety question on an engineering basis versus some of the sophomoric attacks that we’ve seen elsewhere in the media.” Ford shares rose 0.2 percent to $15.24 at 9:34 a.m. in New York. Ford’s arch rival, General Motors, has been running a series of commercials where people have to choose between a steel cage or an aluminum one to get away from a grizzly bear. The extended-cab SuperCab F-150 was rated “marginal” on the “small overlap test,” while achieving a “good” rating in the IIHS’s four other crash tests. That’s because the process took longer and was more involved, requiring an entire panel to be replaced, Zuby said. “It is potentially a financial issue for people who choose an aluminum-body vehicle over a steel-bodied one,” Zuby said. “They may end up paying a slightly higher insurance rate because the data would suggest that it is going to cost more to repair their vehicle when they are in a crash.” “When you look at real world repair costs, not staged repair costs, for the 2015 F-150, they are comparable to, or less than, other full-size pickups,” said Levine.

Ford defended the truck’s safety record, noting that it earned the top National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test ratings in all configurations and is the only truck to have received that recognition from the government. In the SuperCab version, the steering wheel was pushed back almost 8 inches (20 centimeters), coming “dangerously close” to the crash dummy’s chest, IIHS said. Extra time to repair the aluminum body accounted for the higher price to fix the front crash damage, while higher parts costs pushed up the repair bill for the rear collision. The new F-150’s fuel economy increased as much as 29 percent, primarily because the use of aluminum trimmed the truck’s weight by about 700 pounds (318 kilograms). The Super Cab and the two-door Regular cab — which the institute didn’t test — don’t have those extra pieces of steel, but will get them in 2016 versions.

Jake Fisher, the magazine’s automotive-test director, said that depending on which shop does the repair, an aluminum truck won’t necessarily be more expensive to repair. “We looked at parts prices and how the repairs are done. While it always depends on what the damage is, in many cases the aluminum parts were not any more expensive than the steel parts for earlier F-150s,” Fisher said. Truck owners should be sure to take a damaged vehicle to one of the 750 dealers and 800 independent body shops that have been certified to work on the truck’s aluminum components, he added.

Ford’s trucks didn’t get the institute’s highest safety rating — “Top Safety Pick Plus” — because they don’t have automatic braking systems to prevent collisions.

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