Towing standard finally set
The dramatic video that shows a 2015 Ford F-150 beating Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 pickups in a towing test should include an asterisk.
Ford aced the test — but it also wrote the questions and graded the exam.
It's the last gasp of automakers' old way to evaluate trucks' towing ability. Each company created its own test and reported how its vehicles did. There was no independent oversight or standard test procedure.
“The old system was the Wild West. Everybody decided the rules they wanted to follow,” Edmunds.com senior analyst Bill Visnic said. “Car shoppers couldn't count on a level playing field for comparison.”
Towing capacity is a vital statistic for pickup and SUV shoppers. It measures how heavy a trailer a vehicle can safely tow. The consequences of towing too heavy a trailer can be grave.
The way automakers used to report their towing capacity “was not particularly useful to the consumers,” said Eric Evarts, autos editor of Consumer Reports magazine.
The 2015 Ford F-150's performance pulling a 7,000-pound trailer up Arizona's grueling Davis Dam incline was impressive, but it's not the last word.
That will come shortly when all automakers adopt a standardized towing test.
Few things matter more to truck buyers than towing capacity, but until recently, there was no generally accepted test for it. Each automaker tested towing however it liked.
Engineers hated the game playing. They live in a world of measurables and standards. Meaningless numbers are anathema to them, so Ford, Chrysler, GM, Nissan, Toyota and the Society of Automotive Engineers created a standard towing test in 2008. SAE standards are the automotive equivalent of the Underwriters Laboratories mark. They guarantee a product passed an independent test.
Engineers loved the standardized test, but marketers recoiled from it. They preferred negotiable performance figures. They felt the same way about fuel economy claims before the government set up the EPA fuel economy test procedure to generate numbers customers can use to compare one vehicle to another.
To its credit, Toyota quickly applied the SAE standard, which is called J2807, to the Tundra full-size pickup. The Tundra's maximum towing capacity fell, and the other automakers looked at their shoes and mumbled that they'd adopt J2807 at some point.
Some point arrives with the 2015 model year, largely thanks to Ford. The F-150 is America's best-selling vehicle. It defines the terms on which pickups compete.
The radical new 2015 F-150 that goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year will certify its maximum towing capacity with J2807. In response, Chrysler's Ram truck brand just applied the standard to all its 2015 pickups. Chevy and GMC will use it for 2015 light-duty 1500-series pickups. The Nissan Titan will use J2807 when a new model arrives next year as a 2016 model.
“Now we'll have a way to compare pulling, handling, braking, everything that matters to towing performance across all automakers,” Evarts said. “It's a much better situation for consumers.”
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. Steel puts 1,400 workers on notice to curb costs
- Planned Smallman Place condos in Strip District selling fast
- Paragon Foods’ growth —and planned move — in line with local produce demand
- American Eagle closing Marshall distribution facility by July
- Hearing set on Highmark plan to put $175 million in Allegheny Health
- Union seeks labor board injunction over Wal-Mart store closings
- Frederick’s seeks bankruptcy after closing lingerie stores
- ‘Significant’ fine expected against Sunoco Logistics
- MedExpress bought by United Health Group
- Weak Appalachian coal market crimps supply chain
- Car dealerships turn advertising, sales focus to women