Ford’s F-150 Tows Its Way to the Top

Ford F-150

This likely won’t come as a surprise to many, but PickupTrucks.com has awarded the Ford (NYSE:F) F-150 the top honor in its 2013 Light-Duty Pickup Truck Challenge this month. The F-150 was pitted against five of its biggest rivals — the 2014 Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Silverado 1500, the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500, a 2013 Nissan Titan, a 2013 Ram 1500 and the 2013 Toyota (NYSE:TM) Tundra.

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According to the site, each contestant was judged on numerous different points, ranging from “their physical capabilities as well as other more subjective characteristics.” Each truck was subjected to an evaluation of interior and exterior quality, as well as layout and features, the value for the money, acceleration and brake testing (with and without payloads), hill climbs, autocross test handling, and a 180 mile drive to test for fuel economy, both empty and while towing a payload — and a lot more, as well.

To score each vehicle, the winner of each quantitative test was awarded 100 points and all other competitors received whatever fraction of points their own score deserved when compared to the winning time or distance. This was a change from the site’s historical methods of scoring, when it used a series of formulas that weighted each category according to how important (or conversely, not important) it thought those categories were.

“For example, if the winning truck accelerated a prescribed distance in 10 seconds and the second-place finisher accelerated in 11 seconds,” the site explained “the former would be awarded 100 points and the latter 91 (10 divided by 11= 90.9). Likewise, in stopping distances, if the winner stopped in 135 feet (100 points) and the fourth-place finisher stopped in 153 feet, the fourth-place truck got 88 points.”

Overall the competition was fiercely close. The Nissan had the unfortunate role of placing sixth in the test, with a score of 1,605.5. The first place F-150, meanwhile, scored 1,765 — a mere 159.5 points above the last place Titan, with the remaining four trucks falling in between.

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Second place was awarded to the Ram 1500 SLT Big Horn — and get this, it took silver by a mere 11.5 points on the scorecard. Moreover, the judges at PickupTrucks.com actually favored the Ram over the Ford, but when the hard numbers came in, the Ford pulled ahead.

Third was awarded to the GMC Sierra 1500 SLE Z71. Not only did the GMC win two of the 13 quantitative contests outright, with second place finishes in four others, it did it all without a maximum trailer package or the all-new 6.2-liter V-8, due to be released later this year.

Fourth was given to the GMC’s sibling, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, which was described as a “solid middle-of-the-pack player, often getting close to joining the leaders, yet never threatening to join the bottom two.” That is, with the exception of the fuel economy loop with the trailers in tow, where it took first.

Chevy Silverado Red Pickup

Fifth was awarded to the Toyota Tundra, based on the outdated gauge cluster and split center stack, as well as the “underperforming tire choice.” The Tundra’s dated nature led it towards the back of the pack — however, the truck is due for a refresh later this year.

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Finally, the Nissan Titan pulled in last. While the Titan did not place first in any of the tests, PickUpTrucks emphasizes that the news isn’t all bad — the truck has a solid foundation, and the judges seemed to have a soft spot for the Titan as the sportiest player in the segment. However, the interior and engine were the biggest complaints, but they offer a strong platform to work from in the future.

“The results of this test show why F-Series has been the best-selling pickup truck in America for more than 30 years,” says Doug Scott, Ford truck group marketing manager. “We know our light-duty customers are looking for a pickup truck that delivers the leading combination of towing, payload, horsepower, torque, and fuel economy, and this shootout proves F-150 continues to lead the pack.”

While Ford (NYSE:F) is certainly justified in its confidence, its hard to ignore how close the competition has come, as it is now nipping on the heels of America’s truck champion. Given the exceptionally competitive nature of light-duty trucks, automakers are facing increasing challenges to offer something exclusive.

Here’s how shares of Ford, GM and Toyota are trading relative to each other in 2013:

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