By Larry Edsall
Only three pickup trucks — the Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra and Honda Ridgeline — have been named Top Safety Picks for 2012 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
“The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations,” IIHS said in announcing the list of 69 cars, 38 SUVs, five minivans and three pickups. “The ratings, which cover all four of the most common kinds of crashes, help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection.”
“It’s Packaging 101. If the box doesn’t collapse, then the cargo that’s inside is better protected,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said. In the case of the IIHS awards, that cargo is people: the driver and passengers.
All the pickup trucks that made the list of Top Safety Picks were considered full-size crew cabs.
Is a crew cab inherently safer than extended or standard cab configurations? Maybe yes and maybe no. When it comes to full-size pickups, crew cabs are the only ones IIHS puts through its crash testing.
“They’re the versions of pickups that we usually test,” IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said. “The reason is we want to rate the version of the trucks that are most likely going to be used as family vehicles rather than work vehicles. We haven’t tested the other versions of the trucks.”
“For drivers who need to haul loads, the Ford F-150, Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tundra are good choices in the large-pickup category,” IIHS said in its press release, adding, “small pickups continue to be shut out. None the Institute has evaluated qualify for the award.” Regular PUTC readers will remember we reported the mixed test results from last year in the midsize pickup truck segment.
IIHS tests compact pickups, but for 2012 none of them earned Top Safety Pick status. In fact, since pickups were included in the program starting in 2008, only one small truck, the Toyota Tacoma, has earned Top Safety Pick acclaim, and that was in 2009. No word as to the IIHS will continue to use the term "compact" or reclasify the Ridgeline at a latter date as a "midsize".
In 2008, the Tundra, which had standard side airbags, was the only pickup to be named a Top Safety Pick. In 2009, the F-150, Tundra, Tacoma and Ridgeline all received such recognition. No full-size pickups were tested as part of the 2010 program. The F-150 and Tundra repeated on the 2012 list and were rejoined by the re-engineered Ridgeline.
"With frontal-offset, side-impact and rear-crash evaluation ratings already at IIHS’ Good levels, we focused on improving the roof-crush performance of the Ridgeline to achieve IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2012,” said Chuck Thomas, chief engineer of vehicle safety at Honda R&D Americas.
IIHS gauges vehicle protection in a rollover by using machinery that pushes down on the roof and measures the force needed to deform structural integrity.
“Roof crush ‘Good’ performance was achieved by upgrading the material strength of select roof structure components and strategically adding reinforcements inside the existing roof structure sections,” Thomas said. (“Good” is the highest rating in IIHS crash tests.) “This elegant and efficient approach improved performance with little affect to surrounding parts, keeping the overall cost of improvement lower and providing more value to our customers.
“Ten of the 18 new additions are Honda/Acura models,” IIHS said, noting that Honda and its luxury division had, in Lund’s words, “buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection. Now the automaker has winners in the minicar, small car, midsize car, small SUV, midsize SUV, minivan, and large pickup categories.”
IIHS notes that “vehicles rated Good for rollover protection have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement.” A new federal standard for roof strength is being phased in with the 2013 model year.
Based on IIHS crash tests of 2012 model pickups, the Ram and Nissan Titan scored Good in front and rear protection while the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra achieved that score only in front protection.
Among 2012 “small” pickups, the Nissan Frontier and Suzuki Equator were rated Good in front, side and rollover tests; the Tacoma was rated Good in front, side and rear. The extended cab versions of the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon scored Good in front protection while the crew cab model had no “Good” scores.
For specific scores in all categories, visit www.iihs.org.
Note that IIHS’ crash-test procedures differ from those used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For NHTSA scores for pickup trucks, visit www.safercar.gov.