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Pick-up importer keeps an eye on US towing feud

Under tow: Ford has admitted stripping items such as the radio, centre console and spare wheel from its F-Series pick-ups in the United States to maximise towing capacities.

Performax says an argument over max towing ratings is unlikely to rock pick-ups here

31 Jul 2014

AUSTRALIAN vehicle conversion specialist Performax International says a spat between pick-up manufacturers in the United States over towing capacities is unlikely to have a knock-on effect for its range of American-made, locally converted trucks.

In Detroit, Ford and General Motors have admitted they have stripped various standard bits – even the centre console in the case of the Ford F-Series and the rear bumper in the case of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra – to reduce the purported weight of the vehicles and thus boost maximum payload claims.

According to US publication Automotive News, spare wheels, jacks and the radio are also among the items jettisoned by Ford when calculating the F-Series’ weight for payload purposes, rather than using the standard kerb weight.

The ploy was justified by the company as “removing items that have the possibility of being deleted from a vehicle order”.

After first denying that it resorted to such tactics, rival GM yesterday admitted it too had started removing the rear bumper and fitting light alloy wheels to its latest pick-ups to reduce vehicle weight in the rating process due to “competitive pressures”.

The admissions arose in a tit for tat war of words over who has the best towing capacity, with only Dodge Ram publicly declaring that it uses the standard kerb weight and the international SAE J2807 towing test criteria when calculating its published figures.

The argument mainly centres around the maximum towing capacity for so-called “goose neck” or “fifth-wheeler” towing, in which the towing arm hitch is fixed to the pick-up bed, taking some of the trailer load.

In Australia, Queensland-based Performax International imports and distributes full-size pick-ups from GM, Dodge, Toyota and – most recently – the latest Ford F-250 Super Duty.

Performax sales manager Kevin Thoroughgood said his company relied on the manufacturers’ official ratings when setting the towing and payload capacities for the vehicles sold in Australia.

He said he had noted the claims and counter claims between the US manufacturers over the past few days, but doubted it would have any knock-on effect here.

“Whatever they (the manufacturers) verify as correct is normally fine,” he said. “The government accepts that if the manufacturer claims something, it is fine.

“It is different for tow bars, though, as we have to test those to make sure they are compliant with ADRs (Australian design rules).”

Mr Thoroughgood said that if any of the manufacturers of the pick-ups sold under the Performax right-hand-drive conversion line-up altered published weights or towing capacities as a result of the current US publicity, Performax would fall into line.

For the Ford F-Series Super Duty, the towing rating is five tonnes, with a gross combined mass of 10.6 tonnes for a single axle trailer and 13.8 tonnes for a dual wheel trailer.

Mr Thoroughgood said it was interesting to note that Dodge used the global rating system (for calculating towing standards) while Ford used its own system.

“As someone said yesterday, it is like checking your own report paper,” he said. “But it won’t have any effect on what we are doing over here though. It really is just an in-fight.

“Ford, GM and Ram have this sort of stuff going on all the time.”

Mr Thoroughgood said that in the end, the final measure of towing limit was gross combined mass.

He said that manufacturers of the mass-selling one-tonne cab-chassis utes in Australia used the bare chassis – minus tray – to calculate payload capacity.

“Nobody drives a bare cab-chassis,” he said. “They need to have a global standard for towing capacity rating.”

Apart from the Super Duty, the Performax pick-up range includes the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, GMC Sierra Denali and Toyota Tundra.

The first F-250 Super Duty deliveries will be made to Australian customers next month, capping a six-month re-engineering program to achieve ADR approval for the big pick-up.

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