DETROIT -- The aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 has earned a better government crash-test rating than its all-steel predecessor, countering any concerns that the lighter material would result in a weaker pickup and eliminating one of the Chevrolet Silverado’s advantages.
The 2015 F-150 SuperCrew received overall, frontal and side-impact crash ratings of five stars -- the highest score possible -- in both the two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations. That’s up from the 2014 truck’s ratings of four stars overall, three in frontal crashes and five in side impacts.
The F-150 SuperCrew, which accounts for more than 70 percent of F-150 sales, now has the same ratings in each category as the Silverado and one more star than the Ram 1500. Regulators have not released ratings for other versions of the F-150, but Ford officials said they are expected soon.
“To anybody that was skeptical, I don’t need to say anything else,” said Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager. “The results speak for themselves.”
Ford says the redesigned F-150, which weighs about 700 pounds less than the 2014 version, has 31 “safety-related innovations,” including an advanced occupant-restraint system and a 12-corner front crush horn, which helps dissipate energy in a frontal-impact crash. The 12-corner design was settled on as the ideal shape during computer simulations, whereas the last generation of the F-150 had a square shape to that part of the frame; it’s a big reason the frontal rating jumped from three stars to five.
Because the F-150’s frame is now 78 percent high-strength steel, up from 22 percent previously, allowing Ford to add an extra crossmember for greater side-impact crash resistance while cutting up to 60 pounds of weight.
“I think we’ve now proven that advanced materials can deliver great safety performance,” said Matt Niesluchowski, Ford’s truck safety manager.
Ford said it extensively used supercomputers early in the development process to balance weight savings, durability, fuel economy and crashworthiness. It developed digital safety models with nearly 1.4 million individual elements to see how parts throughout the truck would perform in a crash long before conducting any physical tests.
Engineers used about three times as much adhesive as in the 2014 F-150, creating greater structural strength than with traditional welds. In testing, they said the metal pulls apart before the adhesive gives way.