The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stiffened its testing procedures in 2011. General Motors has announced that for the first time since those stricter standards have been in place its 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups have earned overall vehicle scores of five stars, the first fullsize pickup trucks to earn that rating. The 2014 Ford F-150 and 2014 Ram 1500 from Chrysler have four-star overall ratings. NHTSA hasn’t yet released the rating of Toyota’s new 2014 Tundra, scheduled to go on sale in late August, but the 2013 Tundra received four stars from NHTSA as did the outgoing 2013 GM trucks.
Gay Kent, GM general director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness, said in a statement, “Safety is as important to truck buyers as it is to car buyers. Silverado and Sierra set a benchmark for pickup truck safety by offering a full array of advanced features designed to protect occupants before, during and after a collision.”
While safety may be important to pickup truck buyers, analysts don’t expect that crashworthiness will be a deciding factor for most consumers in that market. Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said, “While Ford’s F-Series still wears the crown as the top-selling pickup truck in the U.S., the 2014 Silverado and Sierra are now better positioned to challenge Ford in the highly competitive, not to mention profitable, full-size pickup truck segment. Although a five-star NHTSA rating will certainly help to sway those that remain on the fence, the majority of truck buyers are fiercely brand loyal and prioritize towing capacity and power over safety, so don’t expect to see the Silverado and Sierra leapfrog the F-Series based on safety alone.”
Before NHTSA instituted more rigorous testing, almost 90% of models received four or five star ratings for side impacts and 95% were ranked with 5 stars after frontal collision testing. Those figures dropped after the new standards were implemented.
In addition to new passive safety features like lap belt pretensioners, six standard air bags (including new dual stage frontal air bags), fully boxed frames and the use of high strength steel in critical areas, GM’s new pickups, the source of much of the company’s profits in its home market in the U.S. offer other optional safety upgrades like backup cameras, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, and a haptic safety-alert driver’s seat.