Dear Ford, GM, and Ram Truck,
Let's have lunch.
Very truly yours,
When we first reported on truck manufacturers' attempts to standardize how maximum and specific tow ratings are calculated, we were very optimistic. The idea was simple: Let's get all the truck makers on the same page when rating their vehicles' tow ratings so that consumers can compare apples to apples.
For years, truck makers have used a wide variety of testing procedures that, in some cases, were used only to allow them to market the biggest and baddest number for advertising purposes. With quite a bit of guidance from the Society of Automotive Engineers committe chair and representation from all the important players, the J2807 towing standards and practices (for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating up to 13,000 pounds) were, as we understood it, discussed, agreed upon, and released.
Now the only hurdle is to figure out how and when each manufacturer will implement the standards.
As we understood the process, the committee, made up of representatives from both auto and trailering industries, agreed to begin using the J2807 test procedures for 2013 model-year vehicles. That way, anyone buying a truck from the 2013 model year or newer would be able to compare identically tested towing numbers against one another to make the smartest (and safest) purchase.
Not long ago, GM revealed new tow ratings for its long list of 2013 model configurations for light- and heavy-duty models, based on the test procedures mapped out in the J2807 standards. Toyota deserves special mention because they decided to apply the J2807 standards quite a bit earlier than all the other manufacturers, taking a pretty good hit in tow ratings, especially on certain Tundra models.
The truth is that ratings for all manufacturers are likely to take a hit on certain models because J2807 makes some significant requests concerning temperatures, speed and with certain accessories running. Several tests have to be accomplished at a minimum speed without any overheating issues — a tall task for some powertrain and ring-and-pinion combinations, we'd guess.
Regardless of how challenging the new tests are to meet and complete, at some point on this tow-rating committee there must have been some kind of agreement — maybe it's somewhere in the meeting minutes — about exactly what model year this new standard would be required. The committee was specifically designed with truck buyers in mind, to give them a chance to compare, in some manner, the maximum and specific tow ratings in a fair way with the competition. Consumers were supposed to be the priority.
But all that seems to have changed, for now. We're not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way, SAE lost control of exactly when J2807 was to take effect. In fact, not long after GM announced its 2013 tow ratings, they were pulled back. GM said that if everyone didn't use the same procedures at the same time, there was no point in using the new procedures at this time. Ram seems to be holding off using its J2807 numbers as well.
As we understand it, Ford will use the J2807 standards when it offers a significantly redesigned truck starting in 2013, meaning that the next F-150 and Super Duty will use these "new" standards when those new trucks are designed and released.
Maximum tow ratings have always been a valuable key selling point, especially in the HD truck segment, for salesmen and dealerships to separate their products from the competition, just as important as horsepower and torque numbers. So it probably shouldn't surprise us that this subject is causing so much anxiety, especially to marketing and advertising departments.
We understand there are many facets to this issue. Certainly, it puts truck makers in a potentially awkward situation, coming to market with a new truck that could have less towing capacity than the exact same truck that the exact same dealership sold last year. In some cases, the truck may even look identical, too.
There's no question it will take some time for all the numbers to settle out once the decision is made to convert to the new standards, putting all your cards on the table, and we assume there may be some significant drops in capability. But it seems like some truck makers aren't giving consumers enough credit, especially smart truck consumers who understand there are new requirements now.
Sure, it might mean that someone won't be able to brag about being the max-tow-rating champ in an advertising campaign, but every truck engineer will be able to use that as the new (much fairer) starting point for the next stage of this race. If PickupTrucks.com proves anything, it's that there can be intelligent (and passionate) conversation about real trucks and how they compare, and if anyone wants to get in the way of that, it's a problem.
Let's not lose sight of the real issues here: the people who buy trucks.
Maybe there's a way to get all these interested parties back to the table so they can get these tow-rating standards implemented, by everyone, as soon as possible. We'll even pay for the food, no matter how long it takes! Let's get this done so truck buyers can buy the right truck for their needs.