It shouldn't surprise anyone that a good percentage of truck-buying customers consider a pickup's towing capacity as one of the major factors in their purchase. Nor should it surprise anyone that the big truck makers use their advertised tow ratings to lure buyers to their dealerships and away from their competitors.
The problem, for as long as truck manufacturers have been promoting their tow ratings, comes when a customer wants to compare tow ratings. Without a standardized method of determining a number, with strictly defined terms and conditions, those advertised numbers effectively degenerate into which truck maker is more likely to take on the most risk when promoting the highest towing capacity. Clearly, that didn't necessarily mean any or all of those manufacturers were lying about their tow ratings, but without an apples-to-apples set of procedures for testing, truck engineers could simply make up whatever number their own specific procedures would allow them to comfortably (and sometimes not so comfortably) justify to a legal department.
PickupTrucks.com has documented quite a few times how towing and payload ratings have mysteriously increased, sometimes by 1,000 pounds, immediately after a competitor releases a maximum tow number. In fact, sometimes it felt like the truck makers were intentionally under-reporting their true ratings in order to entrap the competition into taking the bait, so they could immediately re-announce their new upgraded ratings. To be honest, for many of us watching this game of one-upsmanship, it was tiresome and offered no real value to those of us looking to make an important purchase.
Enter the Society of Automotive Engieers. Over the past several years, representatives from each truck maker have met to discuss exactly what procedures and requirements there should be to determine precise maximum towing numbers and the subsequent gross combined weight ratings (GCWR) for small and large pickup trucks. The main goal of the committee, which included both original equipment manufacturers and towing industry suppliers, was to create a standard that allows customers to more accurately compare any similarly sized car or crossover or pickup with a gross vehicle weight under 13,0000 pounds.
"We have a great committee with representatives from all over the auto and trailer industries who have put a lot of time and effort into developing standards for trailer weight ratings. I think trailering customers will really benefit from this effort," said Robert J. Krouse, GMNA trailering engineer and chairman of the SAE Tow Vehicle Trailer Rating Committee.
SAE announced the finalized procedures May 23 and after calling each of the truck makers, their reactions were oddly varied. As you'll note from our story, GM recently recalculated all of its 2013 Silverado and Sierra towing numbers, and in some cases, it had to signifcantly adjust their ratings. Toyota made the point to adopt as many of the procedures as possible, gaining credibility in the process, by recalculating all of its 2011 Tundra and Tacoma and SUV lineup.
Interestingly, Ford is taking a more legal approach, telling us they've started applying the new SAE standards to the company's all-new models, such as the completely redesigned 2013 Fusion and Escape, and it will continue to apply the standards as other all-new models are released. What this exactly means to the 2013 F-Series pickups, none of which are "all-new," will be interesting to see. (We'll have more on that front soon, as Ford will be releasing its 2013 F-150 model lineup information very soon.)
Ram Trucks is also keeping its cards close to the vest, as they have told us they'll have more information on the subject by the end of the month when the company releases material on the 2013 Ram, Jeep, and Dodge models.
As for Nissan and Honda, we expect to hear from them shortly regarding their 2013 model lineup, but we don't expect much movement in their numbers related to maximum towing or GCWRs.
As to what type of legal or practical recourse SAE has for any of the manufacturers who do not adhere to the standards and procedures is unclear, but we're trying to find out.