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New test shows disparities in Ford F-150 crash protection

After a highly unusual follow-up crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has concluded that Ford Motor Co. “shortchanges” some buyers of its redesigned 2015 F-150 pickups by equipping certain models with protective steel bars while leaving them off others.

In separate crashes, a four-door crew cab F-150 SuperCrew aced IIHS’s tests and earned the safety agency’s coveted Top Safety Pick rating. But an extended cab SuperCab version of the F-150 received the second-lowest rating of “marginal.”

Why the difference?

IIHS says it comes down to four protective steel bars that Ford installed on the SuperCrew that are left off the SuperCab. The tubular bars, welded to the frame and placed in the front wheel wells, also are missing from regular cab F-150s.

David Zuby, IIHS’s chief research officer, said leaving the bars off the SuperCab “shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab.”

“It doesn’t,” he said.

“In a small-overlap front crash like this, there’s no question you’d rather be driving the crew cab than the extended cab F-150.”

In an e-mailed response to questions from Automotive News, Ford spokesman Mike Levine said Ford will add “countermeasures to the SuperCab and Regular Cab for the 2016 model year. The type of countermeasure and structure will vary by cab type.”

Changing course

The IIHS originally tested the SuperCrew in April under its usual procedures to test only the highest-volume version of vehicle nameplates. The researchers were not planning to test any other F-150s.

The institute changed course after learning from Automotive News that the SuperCab lacks the SuperCrew’s wheel blockers, the term for the protective bars used by the IIHS and many engineers.

The IIHS, a 55-year-old nonprofit funded by auto insurers and based in Arlington, Va., plans to release the results of the new tests Thursday. Automotive News obtained an advanced copy of the report through another source and was granted access to IIHS’s chief research officer.

“Based on these two tests, those structures which extend from the outboard edges of the frame rails seem to do a good job of protecting the occupant compartment from excessive intrusion in this type of crash,” Zuby said.

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