Towing standard is about safety, not market share
When automakers agreed in 2009 to a common way to measure how their vehicles towed loads, it gave promise to a future world in which common sense and safety pulled marketing, not the other way around.
But when it came time for the SAE's J2807 towing standard to be implemented for 2013 models in the light-duty pickup segment -- when pull came to shove, as it were -- the deal struck in 2009 disintegrated in distrust among competitors reluctant to lose a single pickup truck sale.
Consumers ultimately could be the ones to pay the tragic price for that failure.
Marketing claims that flog massive towing capacities could easily lead a less-experienced consumer to think his pickup truck can safely pull any load down a steep mountain road. And when that consumer loses control, will marketing be there to keep him from killing himself or another motorist? No, it won't.
Toyota deserves credit for taking the hit in the 2011 model year and putting the new standard in place. But other than Toyota, there is plenty of blame to go around.
Ford Motor Co. deserves an outsized share for its surprise announcement that it would wait until the 2015 model year to implement the standard in the all-important pickup segment. Ford used new cars and crossovers as political cover to say it had complied in the 2013 model year as promised.
General Motors and Chrysler Group were weak-willed in their own right, using Ford's refusal to comply as justification to avoid implementing the standard when they introduced their 2013 pickups.
Presumably, if one aspires to be a leader in a segment, one must first -- by definition -- be willing to lead.
We can appreciate the pressures that automakers feel to protect their market shares in the highly competitive and profitable light-duty pickup segment.
We also understand how uncomfortable it would be to explain a vehicle's lowered towing specifications between model years when that vehicle has had no mechanical changes.
But those are just excuses, and they don't justify what was done to torpedo the standard.
It's time -- no, it's past time -- for all automakers to adhere to the common standard and adjust their towing ratings.