Ford to tout new F-450 towing capacity, hp, torque as best in class

Ford's new F-450 commercials will coincide with the kickoff of the college football season.
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DANIELS, W.Va. -- When it comes to heavy-duty pickups, performance is the name of the game -- and towing capacity is the ultimate yardstick.

In new commercials appearing this fall, Ford will claim its biggest pickup, the F-450, is capable of a best-in-class towing capacity of 31,200 pounds, an increase of 6,500 pounds over that of the current model.

That claim one-ups Chrysler Group’s Ram brand, which surprised rivals in January 2013 with a 30,000-pound towing rating for its 3500 heavy-duty, up from 22,750 pounds.

Ford, in the new commercials, also will claim that its 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel engine will crank out a best-in-class 440 hp and 860 pounds-feet of torque, up from 400 hp and 800 pounds-feet of torque for 2014 models.

The commercials, which will feature pitchman Denis Leary, will coincide with the kickoff of the college football season, according to Doug Scott, Ford truck marketing manager. The 2015 F-450 is going on sale this week. The 2015 F-250 and F-350 trucks have been on sale for a couple of months.

The Ford commercials are the latest salvo in the pickup towing war. The waters have been muddied because manufacturers have tested their trucks according to their own procedures and not a common industry towing standard, making it difficult to compare towing on an apples-to-apples basis.

Chrysler said today its Ram brand would be the first to adhere to the industry’s common towing standard developed by the SAE. The standard, called SAE J2807, has been applied to light-duty pickups, but Ram will use it for heavy-duties, too.

Ford has said it will conform to the standard as it introduces redesigned models, the first being the 2015 aluminum F-150, scheduled to arrive late this year. The 2015 Super Duty is a midcycle freshening, not an all-new truck.

Scott said Ford will not retest the Super Duty trucks until the next generation is launched. Ford has not said whether it will convert the Super Duty from steel to aluminum for its next redesign.

Customers in the heavy-duty pickup segment can get lost in the confusing thicket of seemingly contradictory performance claims.

That’s why Ford will only mention the horsepower, torque and maximum towing capacity in the commercials, said Brian Rathsburg, Ford Super Duty marketing manager. “You can’t say more, or the customer won’t get anything out of the ad.”

Ford brought journalists to the hilly roads at the New River Gorge National River here to demonstrate its product compared with offerings from Chevrolet and Ram.

Ford officials say they were caught by surprise when Ram rolled out its 2013 3500 with 30,000 pounds towing capacity.

“Ram upped the game,” said Scott Paddy, a Ford powertrain engineer. So Ford engineers scrambled to wring more out of their truck for the 2015 midcycle Super Duty face-lift. Aside from beefing up the powertrain, it has given the truck a larger rear axle.

Scott says that 75 to 80 percent of heavy-duty customers are “frequent towers,” compared with 25 percent among light-duty pickup owners.

Standards for rating towing capacity have been a source of controversy. The industry agreed to the common SAE J2807 standard in 2009 to eliminate sometimes contradictory claims that resulted when manufacturers used their own testing procedures. The standard was to have gone into effect by the 2013 model year, but only Toyota initially adopted the standard.

Then in February, Ford and Chrysler announced they would adopt the standard for their 2015 light-duty models -- a position modified by Chrysler today. General Motors said in June that it was revising its light-duty ratings according to the standard.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.


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