Love pickups

July 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

The pick-up truck occupies a special place in American society. Conceived as a durable and dependable workhorse with few comforts, it enshrines the American work ethic as well, as a certain US machismo. When Ford’s first pick-up made its debut in 1925 (price tag $281), it was a basic vehicle featuring a cargo box and an adjustable tailgate; in recent years, the pick-up has evolved into a luxury vehicle, used, among other things, for towing anything from horse boxes to jet skis. Celebrated in song and film, it is also a regular on the political circuit — during the 2004 elections Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee famously summed up the shortcomings of his opponent with the statement: “He hasn’t spent enough time in a pick-up truck.”

Despite the pick-up’s noble history, owners have been short-changed for years by the lack of a standard test to determine their towing capacity. Ask any truck owner which vehicle has the best towing capacity and they will be unable to give you a clear answer because, until now, each manufacturer has used its own tests and standards.

Now America’s leading makers of big pick-ups have agreed to a standard towing capacity test. Known as J2807, it is being introduced this year and should be in widespread use by 2013, providing buyers for the first time with a way of knowing how any vehicle measures up to the competition.

“We wanted customers to know that 10,000lb of towing capacity means the same things for all trucks,” Robert Krouse, who chaired the Society of Automotive Engineers committee that created the standard, said.

It is not just an issue for petrolheads. It matters hugely. To drivers who rely on their pick-ups and other towing trucks, the measure is as important as fuel economy or horsepower are to other drivers. It also tells them how much weight they can safely tow.

The near-collapse of the American motor industry in 2008 seems — finally — to have taught carmakers about the importance of putting the customer first. All we need now is a standard banning pick-up drivers from hogging the fast lane at 47mph.

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