Ford and Others Play the Safety Star Rating Dance

Ford 15 copy II

Ford recently held a press event focused on safety concerns regarding the all-aluminum 2015 Ford F-150; during that event Ford announced crash-test data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the crew-cab version of 4x2 and 4x4 F-150s. It looks like the F-150 is at the top of its class; the results indicate the new truck (at least in the crew-cab configuration) is actually safer than the previous steel model.

NHTSA does front, side and overall testing — with rollover ratings mostly based on a mathematical calculation — and awards a one- to five-star rating for each test along with an an overall safety rating. The 2015 F-150 SuperCrew received a five-star rating in frontal and side impact testing, and four stars in rollover testing, getting a five-star overall rating.

For comparison purposes, the 2014 all-steel F-150 SuperCrew had a four-star overall rating, three stars for frontal impact and five stars for side impact. Rollover ratings for the 2014 were four stars for the 4x2 and three stars for the 4x4. So the new aluminum F-150 has much better crash ratings than earlier versions of the pickup.

It's worth noting in that most cases the newer model will likely get better crash-test results than the older, but that’s not always the case. For reference, let’s look at the most significant half-ton to debut before the all-new 2015 F-150, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado (and GMC Sierra) 1500. When the 2013 Chevy half-ton 4x4 crew cab was tested, it scored four stars in the frontal crash test, five stars in side impact testing and four stars overall. The next year (2014), when an all-new Silverado 1500 4x4 crew cab debuted, it received five stars for frontal and side impact, and five stars overall. GM engineers clearly did their proper homework; however, that doesn't seem to be the case with the new midsize pickup. 

Interestingly, when you look at the 2012 Chevy Colorado ratings (done before NHTSA did some of these tests), crew-cab and extended-cab 4x2s and 4x4s got a four-star rollover rating. When comparing the brand-new Chevy Colorado (and GMC Canyon for that matter), the new truck could only manage three stars for the rollover rating.

The 2012 Ram 1500 crew-cab 4x4 (the year before its redesign) received a three-star rollover rating, four-star overall and frontal crash ratings, and five stars for side impact. The 2015 Ram 1500 crew-cab 4x4 model has ratings identical to the 2012 model.

NHTSA will be releasing ratings for regular-cab and extended-cab (the SuperCab) versions of the 2015 F-150 soon. image, Evan Sears




NHTSA ratings are the bare minimum, the IIHS ratings are tougher and more in line with real world accidents... How do these Trucks fare in the IIHS crash tests???

NHTSA ratings are often very similar with IIHS ratings.

Ford learned their lesson when the 1997-2003 F-150 received one of the worst front crash test ratings of all time.

NHTS is weak compared to IIHS.

NHTS does full frontal which lessons the intrusion impact. Far and few vehicles crash full frontal.

IIHS does offset and 1/4 offset which imitates majority of real work crashes that happens.

I am most curious to see both the offset test which will not be helped much by the trucks frame or engine for support. I'm thinking aluminum will just crumple like a can.

I'd wager that the ford will do well in the IIHS crash test, aluminum is a fairly strong material (not as strong as steel) and being lighter means it carries less inertia into the crash. I am very surprised the global Colorado didn't do better it is a modern design, however doesn't deter me from it.

Disposable trucks! one crash and throw em away...that makes them expensive to buy and too insure

Even offset there is a steel frame rail behind each side of the bumper as well as steel cross members. So a 1/2 offset will line up with a rail and a 1/4 offset will also line up with a rail unless they are running it at telephone pole diameter cement pylons. Even if the do, the engine is still there to absorb energy. I think many are missing that the aluminum is used mostly in body structure, not in high impact areas. Where Ford is using thick aluminum, the others are using extra thin sheet metal. Not a heck of a big difference in crush resistance. The big test is side impact and rollovers, and it looks like it did just fine so far in the tests that were done.

Seriously though, some of you need to get out more. Aluminum has been used on unibody cars for a long time now and held up just fine. The F150 still has a steel frame under it.

Wayne, much better the truck then the occupants, used to be the other way around. Most will never see a crash severe enough to total it, but when it happens it happens.

They should do the front crash test with an 8,000ld travel trailer behind and see what happens.

"They should do the front crash test with an 8,000ld travel trailer behind and see what happens."

Try that behind any 1500,2500,3500. It won't matter they will all do poorly and you would be no safer in a 1500 than a 3500.


Most trucks like the F150 are built in a modular fashion to allow the same vehicle to have different configurations to be built on the same assembly line with inter changeable parts. when i got in an accident with my raptor (Hit on front left wheel) the Body shop replaced the front frame section a less sever accident of the same type totaled my mom's 2012 Passat as it was unibody and they could not just swap parts. Most mechanics and body shops these days are just Parts Changers as it is cheaper to switch parts then repair broken ones in this day and age.

Once you are spending more than 30K on a new vehicle with room for more than occupants you really ought to EXPECT 5 Star overall crash performance/protection regardless of the testing body. Wayne the vehicles have always been disposable and always will be. Its the warm gooey things in the middle that matter.

sorry room for more than 2 occupants...

Congrats to the F-150, but I would REALLY like to see the small and moderate overlap frontal test results for ALL the pickup truck brands!

So the roll over is mostly mathematical calculations. Well if that is the case then all roll over ratings are as of this moment invalid as they can use all the math they want it is real world results that count.

The problem I have with all these tests is they are done against solid objects that do not give. If you are in a crash it is 99.99% sure that it will be with another vehicle or an object that gives which will lessen the severity of any impact.

Take these safety ratings with a grain of salt, the more they beef these vehicles up to pass these solid object tests the more the vehicle will send the energy of the impact to the occupants.

Most of you are far to young to know and even remember but cars up into the 1950's would be in an accident and have hardly any damage to them but the occupants would be severely injured or dead because all the crash energy would transfer to them instead of being absorbed by the vehicle structure.

What I see happening is they are making these manufactures pass stricter and stricter crash tests and at a certain point the only way to pass these tests is to start making the structure stronger and when you do that more energy is passed onto the passengers.

We must be careful when we say aluminum can be stronger than steel. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. A high-strength aluminum 6000 series alloy can get to about 45 ksi yield strength (around 300 to 350 MPa) if heat treated. Modern advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) are on the market today at around 1800 MPa and are especially helpful in critical applications like door beams and bumpers where crash loads must be managed. That’s about six times stronger than the heat treated 6000 series grades. Aluminum parts can be made to manage those loads too, but only by making the parts thicker, sometimes excessively thick. By the nature of the materials aluminum will never approach the actual yield or tensile strength of high-strength steels. These steels are not only much stronger, but also less expensive to get the job done, and often they can be designed at comparable weights to aluminum parts.

Ford has done a good job and has almost gone out of its way to make aluminum work in the F150. What is surprising is that many of the objectives could have been met with AHSS solutions at a far lower cost.

It's interesting to note that the other pickup to receive a 5 star crash test was not mentioned. The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado also received a NHTSA 5 star crash rating for all tests except for a 4 star Rollver rating. CONGRATULATION to Ford and Chevy for a job well done.

We'll have to wait and see how these trucks perform at the IIHS crash tests. So far, the 2015 Sliverado received a "Good" IIHS rating for the front moderate overlap crash test and all other results are TBD.

@Drlou, FYI. The silverado's overall 5 star rating was mentioned above

What a clickbait headline. Referring to a "rating dance" makes it sound like there's some trickery going on, but really, it's just that manufacturers are making full size trucks safer across the board.

While I still say take anything said by TFL and with a grain of salt, the Ford and Chevy fan boys are noting to like the 3500 Ram winning.

This F-150 did not fair so well and the driver died.

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