ARLINGTON, Virginia — The aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 four-door crew cab or "SuperCrew" pickup truck received a 2015 Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on Thursday.
The crew-cab model is the biggest seller.
However, another 2015 F-150 body style didn't perform quite well. The extended cab, or "Super Cab," that features a smaller rear passenger compartment accessed by two small, rear-hinged doors, "turned in a good performance in four of five assessments, but stumbled in the small overlap front test," the IIHS said in a statement. It received the second-lowest rating of "marginal" in that test.
The IIHS explained that the crew-cab model has extra frame components not present in the extended-cab version.
Ford told IIHS that it is considering making changes to improve the extended-cab version's performance in the small overlap front test.
"Ford is adding countermeasures to the SuperCab and regular cab trucks for the 2016 model," Ford Truck Communication Manager Mike Levine told Edmunds. Though he could provide no further details, he did add, "We're still evaluating specific changes."
The small overlap front crash test measures what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits a tree or utility pole at 40 mph.
"In a small overlap front crash like this, there's no question you'd rather be driving the crew cab than the extended cab F-150," said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.
Test results showed the intruding structure in the extended cab "seriously compromised the driver's survival space."
Nevertheless, these crash tests should allay concerns that the 2015 F-150 and its all-aluminum body are less crash worthy than its steel predecessor.
"Consumers who wondered whether the aluminum-body F-150 would be as crashworthy as its steel-body predecessor can consider the question answered," Zuby said. The previous-generation F-150 crew cab received the same rating of "good" in the other IIHS crash tests, although it was never subjected to the newer small overlap test. The IIHS also never tested a previous-generation extended cab.
Ford said in a statement on its Web site that the new tests dispelled the "myth" that "a vehicle made with an aluminum body isn't as safe as one made of steel."
The 2015 F-150 SuperCrew is the first large pickup in the industry to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick in the current rating system.
The IIHS said for vehicles with multiple body styles, it typically only evaluates the one with the biggest sales. Initially, only the F-150 crew cab was on the schedule.
"After we tested the crew cab in the spring, questions were raised about the extended cab's ability to match the crew cab's good small overlap performance," Zuby said. "We did some initial analysis and decided to test the extended cab."
The IIHS said it plans to rate multiple variants of other pickups slated for tests this year, in order to provide shoppers with more safety information. It did not say which pickups are in line for testing.
The 2015-?16 F-150 earned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's highest five-star safety rating in all crash-test modes and cab configurations. By contrast, the previous generation managed a lower four-star overall rating.
Edmunds says: Time will tell how the extended-cab trucks of other brands perform in IIHS crash tests, but for now, we know that the all-aluminum 2015 Ford F-150 crew cab performs as well or better than its steel predecessor in crash tests.