Whale Watching: 2015 Ford F-150 Crash Testing
...To a Test is a Bad Idea
After half a day walking around campus, the admissions officer from a respected university surprised my friend with a simple statement: "If you want to go to our school next year, consider yourself accepted." My buddy wasn't a gifted athlete or musician, nor was he otherwise extraordinary, but he was a straight talker. The collegian didn't ask for SAT scores, his parents' financial data, or any other test. Instead, he based his decision on his impressions and instincts. It worked out fine for all parties. (Maybe I should rephrase that...)
However, testing has become a way of life. Whether it's chemistry in the home or in front of the camera, bank-ability at the box office, employment, SEO, school, or motor vehicles, virtually everything can be reduced to a test. And that makes every test fair game for gaming the system.
You want to do well in 0-60 mph testing? Set the gearing so the shift point is at 62 mph. Want to do well in "of the year" testing? Be smart about specifications, blueprint it to the better end of parameter ranges, and underestimate the price as much as plausible. Want to do well on EPA testing? Set powertrain management so that 100 percent throttle opening doesn't occur until a few seconds after you mat the pedal so it'll never go WOT on the test cycle.
And now some forum users have suggested Ford gamed the system after Automotive News published a story about SuperCrew IIHS crash test results with SuperCrew equipment the other cab models don't carry. The IIHS had been eager to crash an aluminum F-150 and the SuperCrew is by far the most popular.
The SuperCrew has four tube-like assemblies welded roughly perpendicularly to the frame. These help contain front-wheel movement and, if anything like most steel I've seen bend, will help push the vehicle away from the barrier to help minimize intrusion. They're on the SuperCrew, and it scored Good on the test. Ford was probably more concerned with weight than the nominal cost fitting them.
Then, the IIHS tested a SuperCab version, which still outsells a lot of cars, and got a Marginal rating in small overlap but the same Good score as the SuperCrew in other respects. I would expect a cab with different mass, structure, dimensions, a larger side aperture, no B pillar, and a heavier bed behind it to perform differently in crash tests. Ford is investigating countermeasures and will apply them for the '16 models, and the IIHS will test more cab configurations for all pickups.
This will stoke the steel-versus-aluminum debate, especially as the reinforcements on the SuperCrew are steel attached to the steel frame. Personally I don't see anything in the crash videos and images that would keep me out of an aluminum SuperCrew, but we'll have to wait and see whether steel cabs fare any better or worse.
The IIHS's small-overlap crash test is, per their website, designed to "replicate what happens when the front corner of the vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole." I've seen IIHS crash them only the driver side, though most vehicles I find impaled on poles or trees went in passenger side. Unlike the moderate-overlap test, this test uses a barrier more than twice as high, at 60 inches. I'm guessing an easier way to ace it is with a V-plow on the nose so it glances off to one side or a dualie because IIHS uses 25 percent of vehicle width as overlap and width includes the dualie fenders, resulting in only 12 inches on the front corner rather than 20 inches. My cynical side suggests people might be inclined to give a dualie more space on the road and that if roof pillars weren't so thick for roof-crush standards, we'd immediately notice fewer small-overlap collisions because we could see out of our vehicles.
All this testing will probably make pickups safer, while potentially harder to see out of, heavier, and thirstier, all other things equal. It won't be expensive given the amortization, and since fullsize luxury pickups are an American phenomenon, it won't be affected by any proposed US/Euro vehicle standardization measures.
Meanwhile, I see little to nothing being done about driver error, which by year (from 1979 to 2015) and research study has been labeled responsible for 90-99 percent of motor-vehicle crashes, the environment, vehicles, and unknowns accounting for just 2 percent each.
Might insurers and legislators more intelligently spend elsewhere?