The Toyota Tundra (left) shows relatively little cab intrusion during the 40-mph crash simulation when compared to the Ford F-150 (right) which suffered much more damage to the passenger compartment. (photos, IIHS)

Toyota Tundra Triumphs, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram Fail Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Full Size Pickup Truck Crash Tests
Compiled By: Michael Levine
Posted: 06-04-01 22:00, Last Edited: 06-05-01 22:00

In a 40-mph simulated, frontal offset barrier crash test administered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on full size pickups, the best selling truck in America scored the lowest rating.

Ford's F-150 rated "poor" while Toyota's Tundra scored the highest with the only "good" rating among the group of four pickups. The Dodge Ram scored slightly better than the F-150 with its own "poor" rating while the Chevrolet Silverado ranked second with "marginal" results. Suprisingly, the IIHS results are the reverse of rankings the same four trucks received during government frontal impact testing.

Though hotly debated as an accurate gauge of real-world crash performance by the auto manufacturers, the IIHS test attempts to measure 10 different data points to determine how a driver would fare during the most violent of front-end collisions. Eight of the data points measure cab intrusion around the driver while the remaining two measure steering column movement.

MEASUREMENTS OF OCCUPANT COMPARTMENT INTRUSION AND STEERING COLUMN MOVEMENT (cm), 40 MPH FRONTAL OFFSET CRASH TEST SHOWS TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRUCKS

  Footwell intrusion Brake
pedal
intrusion
Instrument
panel
intrusion
A/C
pillar
closure
Steering column
movement
Footrest Toepan
Left Center Right Left Right Upward Rearward
2001 Toyota Tundra 10 13 20 16 7 2 4 2 7 1
2001 Ford
F-150
39 44 34 31 46 20 18 26 29 11
Source: IIHS

During frontal offset crash testing 40% of a vehicle's front end impacts with a deformable aluminum barrier at 40-mph to simulate a head on collision between two vehicles of the same weight. According to the IIHS this test measures passenger compartment strength and durability more rigorously that the federal government's National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) full-width frontal impact test that all vehicles must pass. The IIHS claims the NHTSA test better measures the performance of a vehicle's restraint system and not passenger compartment intrusion because the force of the impact is spread evenly over the entire front of the truck, so both tests complement each other.

Many manufacturers do not necessarily agree with the IIHS testing methodology. Ford's Automotive Safety Office Director, James Vondale, says, "The IIHS frontal offset test is an extremely severe high-speed test that does not often occur in real world situations. Improving the rating for full-size pickup in the IIHS high-speed offset test would require stiffening the front-end on the F-Series. This would have tradeoffs for frontal government testing and could affect other areas such as compatibility with other vehicles."

Final IIHS scores of good (G), acceptable (A), marginal (M) and poor (P) are calculated and assigned by combining the occupant compartment intrusion results above with injury measurements on a highly sophisticated crash test dummy and slow motion video analysis of seat belt and airbag performance.

2001 Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra's high scores can be attributed to the very strong safety cage surrounding the driver. In fact, so strong was the Tundra that even after the test its doors still worked.

"A key aspect of protecting people in crashes is keeping the space around occupants intact,'' said Brian O'Neill, president of the institute. "Then the safety belts and air bags can prevent significant injuries, even in very serious crashes. This is what happened in the Tundra, but not in the F-150.''

In NHTSA front impact tests, performed at 35-mph, the Toyota Tundra only scored three out of five stars for both passenger and driver protection.

(Photos, IIHS)

2001 Toyota Tundra Frontal Offset Crash Test Results:
Overall
Structure/safety cage
Head/neck
Chest
Leg/foot, left
Leg/foot, right
Restraints/dummy kinematics

G
G
G
G
G

M
G

2001 Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevrolet Silverado shares a marginal score with its untested twin, the GMC Sierra, because the two pickup trucks are so similar.

During the test the Silverado showed poor cab compression but, surprisingly, its combined score was saved by a lack of injuries to the dummies head, neck and chest.

When examined after the test, poor restraint of the dummy's head showed it drop below the window sill.

(Photos, IIHS)

2001 Chevrolet Silverado Frontal Offset Crash Test Results:
Overall
Structure/safety cage
Head/neck
Chest
Leg/foot, left
Leg/foot, right
Restraints/dummy kinematics

M
P
G
G
G

G

P

2001 Dodge Ram

Reiterating again that, "No single test can measure a vehicle's overall safety performance, and they don't necessarily reflect a vehicle's real-world safety," a DaimlerChrysler spokesperson was quoted by the Associated Press after the Dodge Ram scored a poor rating.

The Dodge Ram dummy suffered high neck and head injuries due to late airbag deployment and poor body restraint during the test. Like the Silverado, the driver's head dropped below the window sill on the rebound, and made contact with the inside door panel, as seen by the smeared greasepaint on the door.

"Significant" cab intrusion further lowered the score.

(Photos, IIHS)

2001 Dodge Ram Frontal Offset Crash Test Results:
Overall
Structure/safety cage
Head/neck
Chest
Leg/foot, left
Leg/foot, right
Restraints/dummy kinematics

P
M
P
G
P

A
P

2001 Ford F-150

In its first ever large pickup crash testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the F-150 was by far the worst performer among the four 2001 models tested.

Brian O'Neill, IIHS President, stated that the F-150, "exhibited major collapse of the occupant compartment in the offset test. As a result of this collapse, the dummy's movement wasn't well controlled. High injury measures were recorded on the dummy's head and neck. The airbag deployed late in the crash, and this also contributed to the high injury measures."

It should be noted though that the Ford F-Series trucks recently became the first pickups to earn quadruple five-star rating in government crash tests, achieving

(photos, IIHS)

2001 Ford F-150 Frontal Offset Crash Test Results:
Overall
Structure/safety cage
Head/neck
Chest
Leg/foot, left
Leg/foot, right
Restraints/dummy kinematics

P
P
P

G
A

M
P

the highest possible ratings for driver and passenger frontal protection,as well as front and rear seat side protection. No other full-size pickup truck tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed as well.