Ford’s best-selling pickup is the F-150, but according to recent crash tests on its extended-cab version, Ford could be in big trouble for its decision to put profits over safety. The 2015 F-150 SuperCrew and 2015 F-150 SuperCab pickups are the first mass-market vehicle with an all-aluminum body. Ford put an extra steel safety structure in the F-150 SuperCrew but not in the F-150 SuperCab. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) subjected both the crew cab and the extended cab to its new small overlap front crash test. This test runs one-quarter of the pickup’s front bumper into a barrier at 40 miles per hour. The impact occurs just in front of the driver’s seat. In other words, the test is meant to replicate a partial head-on collision, which occurs when the truck hits a telephone pole or crosses the center line into oncoming traffic.
The F-150 SuperCrew with the extra steel safety structure performed well with a low risk of injury to the occupants, receiving the IIHS’s top rating of “Good.” The F-150 SuperCab passenger compartment, with only an aluminum body and no extra steel safety structure, was crushed during the crash test. IIHS determined that the impact “seriously compromised the driver’s survival space” since the steering wheel was pushed back almost 8 inches (20 centimeters), coming “dangerously close” to the crash dummy’s chest. IIHS gave the smaller SuperCab a “Marginal” rating, which is the IIHS’s second-worst rating.
One would think that if a pickup performs this poorly in a crash test that the manufacturer would not put that pickup on the market. Unfortunately, Ford has decided to put the F-150 SuperCab on the market without incorporating the steel safety structure that it knows would protect occupants in partial head-on collisions. Instead, Ford will wait until its 2016 F-150 model to incorporate the protective structure into all of its F-150 pickups.
Ford added structural elements to the crew cab’s front frame to earn a good small overlap rating and a Top Safety Pick award, but didn’t do the same for the extended cab,” David Zuby, IIHS’s chief researcher, said in a statement July 30. “That shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab.”
A pickup that crushes into an occupant’s survival space is not crashworthy. Lawyers in our firm have handled many crashworthiness cases involving defective vehicles. A crashworthiness case occurs when something else causes the driver to wreck the vehicle, but the vehicle causes the driver’s injuries because it does not hold up in a foreseeable crash. In General Motors v. Edwards, 482 So. 2d 1176, 1181 (Ala. 1985), the Alabama Supreme Court held that “while a manufacturer is under no duty to design an accident-proof vehicle, the manufacturer of a vehicle does have a duty to design its product so as to avoid subjecting its user to an unreasonable risk of injury in the event of a collision.” The Court reasoned that:
[C]ollisions are a statistically foreseeable and inevitable risk within the intended use of an automobile, which is to travel on streets, highways, and other thoroughfares, and that, while the user must accept the normal risk of driving, he should not be subjected to an unreasonable risk of injury due to a defective design. Id. at 1181.
By placing a pickup on the market that will not protect occupants in a partial head-on collision (i.e. with a telephone poll or crossing center line into an oncoming vehicle), Ford is subjecting occupants of the 2015 F-150 extended cab to an unreasonable risk of injury. We can only hope that Ford will change its mind and recall these pickups to make them safe for consumers who have no idea that their extended cab does not contain all the protection of the bigger F-150. If you would like more information on crashworthiness cases, contact our Product Liability Section Head, Cole Portis, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Bloomberg BNA; CNN Money
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