In the high-tech world of pickups, where sensors and computers regularly outnumber cylinders, often the best solutions are the simplest.
Case in point: To pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's vexing small offset crash test, Ford's simple, low-tech solution did the job.
Ford engineers welded tubular bars to the pickup's frame and placed them in the front wheel wells, fore and aft of the tire.
It was so effective that the redesigned 2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew passed the IIHS offset test with flying colors, the institute revealed last week. Rival Ram has decided to use a similar solution for all its pickups, beginning with the 20151/2 Ram Rebel, released last month.
The IIHS testing on light-duty pickups is only beginning. On Thursday, July 30, the institute crash-tested a 2015 Toyota Tundra. Results of the Tundra test haven't been made public. However, a spokesman for Toyota said the full-size 2015 Tundra "did not require any modification, but airbag overlap was improved for the IIHS small offset" testing.
IIHS spokesman Russ Rader said a 2015 Ram 1500 Crew Cab will hit the wall in September. Tests of 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickups will take place in December, he said.
At stake are safety ratings from the IIHS for the Detroit 3's top-selling nameplates, which are widely considered by shoppers. The offset test mimics a vehicle hitting a tree in the front corner at 40 mph.
Ford chose to leave the protective bars off its two other versions of the 2015 F-150, the regular cab and extended cab, called the SuperCab. The bars absorb energy and redirect some crash force away from the passenger compartment.
Without the bars, the SuperCab received a "marginal" rating on the IIHS offset test -- the second to the bottom, ahead of "poor," of four ratings on its scale. The regular cab, which IIHS says is structurally similar to the SuperCab, was not tested.
Recognizing the disparity in the test results, Ford spokesman Mike Levine said last week that the company now plans to equip the regular cab and SuperCab with "countermeasures" to protect passengers in the 2016 model year. He declined to say whether they would be the protective bars, called wheel blockers by many engineers.