How GM, Ford Push the Limits in the Name of Max Tow Rating

Ford Super Duty towing 1 photo
Photo: Ford
With the introduction of the SAE J2807 towing standards, the automotive industry looked like it had finally found an apples-to-apples way to measure the maximum towing capacity of a truck. Then Ram had to go and poke the bear (Ford) with a “best-in-class” tow rating for its Ram 3500. With that claim then unraveled an even deeper complexity into how tow ratings are determined.
The whole thing started when Ram said its heavy-duty truck had the highest rating in the class at 30,000. Well, Ford then threatened legal action against Ram for the claim since its F-450 Super Duty truck was able to tow 31,200 pounds. The back-and-forth continued as Ram pointed out that the Ford F-450 wasn’t in the Ram 3500’s class, since it was a Class 4 truck.

And that brings us to the dirty little secret in the towing wars. The class of truck is determined by the curb weight and maximum payload. In the case of the Class 3 trucks (i.e. Ford F-350 Super Duty, Ram 3500 and Chevy Silverado 3500HD), the combined weight and payload must not exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 14,000 pounds. To skirt this rule, Ford and General Motors have admitted to starting with a base curb weight that factors in some options that customers are able to delete including the rear bumper, spare tire and radio.

Additionally, a GM spokesperson told Automotive News that GM helps shave pounds by swapping out steel wheels for lighter weight alloy wheels. Regardless of how the figure is determined, Ford says that all of its trucks are properly assigned a curb weight and maximum payload so customers don’t have to worry about exceeding the limits.

Ram along with Toyota use unmodified versions of their trucks to determine curb weight, and Automotive News says that if Ford did so with the F-450 Super Duty, it would exceed the Class 3 GVWR by 61 pounds allowing Ford to keep its “best-in-class” status… for now.
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