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Safety Tests: F-150 Crew Cab Outperforms Extended Cab

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July 30, 2015—The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a release Thursday stating that the 2015 Ford F-150 crew cab swept its crashworthiness evaluations and the extended cab performed well in four of the five assessments but struggled in the small overlap front test.

The results are the first ratings for large pickups in a group the IIHS is evaluating this year.

The F-150 crew cabs earned good ratings for occupant protections in all five IIHS crashworthiness evaluations—small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations. The extended cab earned good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations but received only a marginal rating for occupant protection in small overlap front crash.

IIHS chose the F-150 to test first because it is the best selling vehicle in the U.S. and the first mass-market vehicle with an all-aluminum body.

“Consumers who wondered whether the aluminum-body F-150 would be as crashworthy as its steel-body predecessor can consider the question answered,” says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.

Both the crew cab and extended cab F-150 pickups are rated for basic crash preventions with equipped with Ford’s optional forward collision warning system, which meets performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The F-150 is not eligible for “Top Safety Pick” because it lacks an autonomous braking system.

Two models were evaluated rather than one because the IIHS typically evaluates the model with the biggest sales. Initially, only the F-150 crew cab was on schedule.

“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. We did some initial analysis and decided to test the extended cab, too,” Zuby said.

While a departure from the Institute’s usual practice, the F-150 merits a closer look.

“For starters, there’s been lots of buzz around the release of the first aluminum-body pickup and how it would perform in crash tests,” Zuby said. “What’s more, even the lower-selling extended cab sales top those of many of the passenger vehicles we rate.”

IIHS plans to rate multiple variants of the other pickups slated tests this year to provide consumers with more safety information.

In the small overlap front test,  each F-150 traveled at 40 mph toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier. 25 percent of the pickup’s total width struck the barrier on the driver side, where a Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man was positioned at the steering wheel. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an another object. The two versions of the F-150 had different outcomes.

The crew cab’s occupant compartment remained intact, the front-end structure crumpled in a way that spared the occupant compartment significant intrusion and preserved survival space for the driver. The dummy indicated low risk of injuries to the head, chest, legs and feet. The airbags worked together to keep the dummy’s head from contacting injury-producing stiff interior structures or outside objects. The dummy’s head loaded the front airbag, which stayed in place until the dummy rebounded.

The extended cab’s structure compromised the driver’s survival space, resulting in a poor structural rating. The toepan, parking brake and brake pedal were pushed back 10-13 inches toward the dummy, and the dashboard was jammed against its lower legs. Measures recorded on the dummy indicate moderate risk of injuries to the right thigh, lower left leg and left foot in an actual crash. The steering column was pushed back nearly 8 inches and came dangerously close to the dummy’s chest. The dummy’s head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding the the left and hitting the instrument panel.

The extended cab is a different story. Intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s survival space, resulting in a poor structural rating. The toepan, parking brake and brake pedal were pushed back 10-13 inches toward the dummy, and the dashboard was jammed against its lower legs. Measures recorded on the dummy indicated there would be a moderate risk of injuries to the right thigh, lower left leg and left foot in a real-world crash of this severity. The steering column was pushed back nearly 8 inches and came dangerously close to the dummy’s chest. The dummy’s head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off to the left and hitting the instrument panel.

“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,” Zuby said. “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 Institute has briefed Ford on the results. In a statement, the manufacturer said, “Ford is evaluating possible changes to the extended cab for small offset performance.”

 For a complete look at the results of the F-150 safety tests, click here

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