Ford’s F-150 pickup truck aced the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests while its Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Toyota Tundra rivals received mixed reviews. The Ram brand pickups did the worst.

The F-150 crew cab and extended cab pickups were the only models to earn “good” ratings in the IIHS small-overlap test, the insurance industry trade group said Tuesday. The test simulates a wreck in which the front corner of the truck hits another vehicle or solid object at 40 mph.

The extended cab versions of the Silverado, GMC Sierra and Tundra collected “acceptable” ratings. Their crew cab model siblings and Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Ram trucks all rated “marginal,” the institute said.

Trucks with “marginal” ratings experienced severe structural damage and crushing that would leave occupants with serious injuries, IIHS said.

Both consumers and businesses should pay attention to the IIHS tests, safety experts said.

“These ratings are terribly important,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “If I was a fleet manager, I would make sure I had my workers in the safest one. It also will save companies money over the long run.”

Beyond preventing injury, using safer vehicles reduces lost work time, workers’ compensation insurance claims and liability risk, Ditlow said.

“Clearly, fleet and business buyers should consider the F-150,” said Russ Rader, an insurance institute spokesman.

However, business buyers should not assume that the test results for the half-ton pickup extend to Ford’s line of heavy-duty pickups, which have not been tested, Rader said.

Consumer Reports won’t recommend a vehicle that does poorly in the small-overlap test.

Pickup trucks are one of the hottest segments of the U.S. auto market.

Sales of full- and mid-size pickup trucks rose 6 percent, year over year, during the first quarter of 2016, well ahead of the industry’s 3.4 percent pace. Pickups made up nearly 14 percent of the 4.1 million vehicles sold in the U.S. through the first quarter, according to Autodata Corp.

The latest results represented a turnaround from a test only of Ford pickups last year, when the extended cab model received a “poor” grade. Crew cabs have four normal doors and two full rows of seating. Extended cabs have two full front doors, two smaller rear doors and tight rear seating.

Ford f150 pickup truck dummy safety crash test

The dummy's position in relation to the door frame, steering wheel, and instrument panel after the crash test indicates that the driver's survival space was maintained very well. (Photo: Ford)

“Ford is leading the way among large pickup manufacturers when it comes to protecting people in a range of crashes and offering technology to warn drivers of imminent frontal crashes,” said Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the insurance institute’s Vehicle Research Center.

Ford made design changes to the current models so that they better manage the crash forces in the small-overlap test. It installed so-called wheel blockers — the front set punctures the tire in a crash while the rear set deflects the wheel from the truck cabin. The automaker also reinforced the roof and added nylon hinge pillar reinforcements.

“We spent thousands of hours engineering, designing and developing multiple safety features that work together in the event of an accident,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president for product development and chief technical officer.

The Ram 1500 pickups, built by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, had the worst crash results.

In both the Ram crew cab and extended cab, parts of the trucks’ structure punched as much as 17 inches into the cabin, IIHS said.

“Drivers in these pickups would need help freeing their legs from the wreckage following a small-overlap crash,” Arbelaez said.

All of the pickups tested received “good” ratings in a moderate, or less severe, overlap test, a front crash test, a side test and head restraints evaluations.

But it was a mixed bag for roof strength.

The Fords, Chevrolets, GMCs and Tundra extended cab all rated “good.” The Tundra crew cab was “acceptable” and the Ram models rated “marginal.”

Roof strength is an important test, IIHS said, because 44 percent of occupant deaths in pickups occur in rollovers. Stronger roofs also prevent unbelted passengers from being ejected through windows, windshields or doors that have broken or opened.

Pickup truck occupants are the least likely to buckle up among all vehicle passengers, the insurance group said. Just 77 percent of pickup occupants were observed using belts in a 2014 study, compared with 89 percent of people in vans and SUVs and 88 percent who were in cars.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said the IIHS test results painted only a partial picture of its trucks.

“Our vehicles are designed for real-world performance and no single test determines overall, real-world vehicle safety,” the automaker said in a statement.

The company said all of its vehicles meet federal safety standards.

Toyota said it will examine the findings.

“We are evaluating the test results with the goal of finding new ways to continuously improve the performance of Toyota trucks and to further enhance the safety of our vehicles,” the automaker said in a statement.

It also said its vehicles meet federal safety standards.

A spokesman for General Motors, which owns the Chevrolet and GMC brands, said the automaker was not commenting on the IIHS tests.

Check out the video below to see the crash tests in action:

About The Author

Jerry Hirsch

Jerry Hirsch is a veteran business journalist who is Editor and Vice President of Content of Trucks.com. Prior to joining Trucks.com, Hirsch was nationally known as the automotive writer for the Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, the Toronto Star, Consumers Digest and many other publications. He can be found on Twitter: @JerryHirsch.

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