DANIELS, W.Va. -- Ford launched a salvo in the escalating heavy-duty pickup towing rivalry last week. And Ram promptly fired right back.
In commercials 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 F-450, Ford said last week.
That claim one-ups Ram, which surprised rivals in January 2013 with a 30,000-pound towing rating for its 3500 heavy-duty, up from 22,750 pounds.
But nothing is simple in the towing war.
The same day that Ford introduced its new Super Duty trucks to journalists here, Ram issued a press release announcing it is the first manufacturer whose entire lineup of pickups -- from light duty to heavy duty -- has towing capacity ratings developed under an industry standard developed by SAE. Ram also stuck by its best-in-class claim for its 3500 4x4 heavy duty powered by a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel.
Ram says its 3500 and the Ford F-450 are in different classes and thus can't be compared. Ford says they are in the same class.
Trucks are classified by gross vehicle weight rating, the maximum loaded weight of the truck including the percentage of a trailer's weight that sits on the truck's axle. Class 3 pickups include trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,000 pounds. Ford says its truck fits in that class even though it has a Class 4 name.
"The Ram 3500 high output, their most capable tow vehicle, and the Ford F-450 both have identical gross vehicle weight ratings," said Ford spokesman Mike Levine.
Regarding the industry towing standard, called SAE J2807, Ford's truck marketing manager Doug Scott reiterated Ford's position that it will comply with the standard when it launches all-new versions of its pickups.
The first will be the aluminum-body F-150, arriving late this year. The 2015 Super Duty is a midcycle face-lift. Ford has not said when the next-generation Super Duty will arrive -- or whether it will have an aluminum body.
The Ford F-350, equipped with the same engine as the F-450, has a maximum towing rating of 26,700 pounds, 3,300 less than the Ram's. To get the added towing capacity out of the F-450, Ford upped its rear axle ratio to 4.3 from 3.73, added commercial grade 19.5-inch wheels and tires and beefed up its suspension with new leaf springs, front and rear stabilizer bars and shocks along with larger brakes.
Manufacturers historically have used their own testing standards for towing capacity, making it impossible to compare trucks on an apples-to-apples basis. In 2009, automakers agreed to apply the SAE J2807 standard to light-duty trucks. But only Toyota met the 2013 model year deadline for rating its trucks under the standard.
In February, all manufacturers agreed to an updated standard that would include heavy-duties.
All that extra towing capacity comes at a price. To achieve its 31,200-pound maximum towing capacity, a 2015 Ford F-450 Crew Cab XL starts at $55,140, including shipping. To achieve its maximum 30,000-pound towing capacity, the 2014 Ram 3500 Tradesman starts at $43,045, including shipping. Prices for other trims rise accordingly, but towing capability can drop with additional features, which can add weight.