• Dec 6, 2006

When a vehicle rolls over, one of the critical components in assuring the safety of its occupants is the roof structure and its ability to protect, not injure its occupants. On the heels of nearly $250-million dollars in judgments relating to injuries caused in rollover accidents, Ford Motor Company has considerably stepped up its efforts to assure the roof strength of its vehicles.

A new standard proposed by NHTSA in August, 2005 raises the minimum force withstood by a roof structure from a multiple of 1.5 to 2.5 times the vehicle's weight while maintaining sufficient head room for a buckled-in average size adult male to avoid being struck by a crushed roof. Unfortunately, a final ruling could take as long as a year and would give the manufacturers until at least 2011 to comply.

In a letter to the NHTSA, Ford's director of automotive safety office, James P. Vondale, disclosed that some versions of 11 models would have roofs 20 percent stronger than required. For instance, the Expedition and Navigator, as well as some F-250 and E-series models would exceed the standard, matching the Volvo XC90, which has one of the strongest roofs on the market.

Follow the jump for more info and a list of the 11 models from Ford that will receive stronger roofs in the near future.

[Source: The Detroit News]

Congrats to Ford for stepping up and going above and beyond. The real issue is why does it take so long for these things to happen and why wait for a lawsuit to make a change? Wouldn't it have been cheaper to spend the $250 million on stronger roofs before the lawsuits and avoid the negative publicity they bring?

11 Ford models that will soon achieve roof strengths that meet or exceed the NHTSA proposed mandate of 2.5 time a vehicle's weight and their projected strength:

  • F-250 Regular Cab > 3.6
  • F-250 Super Cab > 3.5
  • F-250 Crew Cab > 3.6
  • F-150 Regular Cab > 3.1
  • F-150 Super Cab > 3.1
  • F-150 Crew Cab > 2.9
  • Ford Expedition > 3.0
  • Lincoln Navigator > 3.0
  • Ford Explorer > 2.9
  • Mercury Mountaineer > 2.9
  • Ford E-Series Van > 3.6


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  • 22 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Autoblog - on articles such as this one, please have one of your contributing engineers (like Eric B.) provide a simple technical explanation. From the responses it is apparent that a number of readers don't understand the principles involved...plus, the article is fairly misleading.

      First, the article implies that Ford trucks and SUVs have weaker roofs when compared to other brands - but this is simply not the case. If you compare similar types of vehicles, you'll find that Ford roofs are no weaker than those of Toyota, Nissan, GM, or D-C products. The reason that attention is being paid to Ford is due to the Explorer fiasco - which was caused by a number of issues not related to roof strength (excess speed, vehicle overloading, underinflated tires, lack of driving ability, and so on).

      Second, the pictures don't help - and I could easily find similar pictures of trucks of other brands. Without knowing the actual situation of the accidents, the pictures are meaningless.

      Third, people need to understand that the current Ford products meet the NHTSA standard for roof strength - and if they're not strong enough, blame NHTSA and not Ford.

      Fourth, readers need to understand that increasing the strength of the roof leads to other problems - reduced fuel mileage, increased cost, reduced visibility (due to larger pillars), and a higher center of gravity...which actually makes rollovers *more* likely. You could argue that the strength could be increased without adding weight by using other materials - but those materials also cost substantially more.

      Fifth, people need to understand that the roof strength is based on the weight of the vehicle - and even the current generation has roofs which are capable of supporting a great deal of weight (certainly more than most vehicles on the road). Take the F250, for instance - the regular-cab truck can weigh as much as 6,500 pounds empty. So, by the old rule the roof needs to be able to support 1.5 times that, or 9,750 pounds. Think about that...you're talking about a roof that has only four pillars supporting nearly 5 tons. How many vehicles out there are required to support over one ton per roof pillar just to meet the minimum standard?

      Plus, according to Ford's numbers the new F250 roof will support at least 23,400 pounds...or approximately the weight of 9 Honda Civics. Now, picture 9 Civics stacked on top of each other - all on the top of a regular-cab roof which is held up with only four pillars. That's pretty freaking impressive, and Ford should be applauded for making that kind of commitment to rollover safety.

      Also, keep in mind that the two Superduty trucks in the above photos had roofs strong enough to support the weight of 4 Honda Civics (at a minimum) - and think about what kind of accidents it would take to cause that kind of damage.

      I don't mean to be critical, but as a mechanical engineer and former paramedic I feel that the article (particularly the pictures) was a bit misleading - the roof of any vehicle can collapse depending on the severity of the accident, and the article was a blatant attempt to turn a positive article into a slam against Ford. And no, I don't work for Ford - I actually work at an auto supplier designing components for Honda.

      • 8 Years Ago
      that is why they put the wheels on the bottom of a car or truck not on the roof and they expect most drivers with any lick of common sense not have any problem doing that. they are not designed for amateur joey chitwoods. i have been driving for over 56 years and have owned a lot of fast cars and NEVER got one to turn turtle.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Do a websearch for roof crush lawsuits and those lawyer sites indicate that the Toyota 4-Runner and Sequoia and the Nissan XTerra are similarly weak. That's probably not even all the models or manufacturers.

      But, yes, let's bash Ford because they are the first automaker to tell the NHTSA that they will exceed the new rules. Hey, it is autoblog we're talking about. Toyotas are handmade by God and their large V8s run on compost.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Mostly bad news from Ford lately.
      Why are some people loyal to this POS company?
      Must be some kind of delusion--just about anything from any other manufacturer is better.
      Messing with Ford isn't worth the aggravtion.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Well, motor man, I ve been driving since the mid sixties and as a pro for the past twenty five. I haven't turned turtle either but seen a lot of accidents. Not all injured or damaged cars were of their own doing. I have an old 1952 pickup that would probably sit on it's roof without collapsing. No reason why a newer truck shouldn't be able to.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The entire article on which this thread is based is inaccurate. Ford did not write a letter to NHTSA to show how they were voluntarily going to exceed the new roof strength standard. Instead, the purpose of their letter was to show what effective "strength to weight" ratios would result from NHTSA's proposed rule, based on the simple fact that many different trim levels share the same roof.

      For example, the same roof structure will be used on all F-250 regular cabs. But the lightest of these trim levels 5,279 lb while the heaviest is 7,600 lb. This is a difference of around 45%. Since the roof will have to pass the new roof strength rule for the heaviest vehicle, the strength for the lightest one will be 45% greater than it othewise needs to be.

      This is a prime example of why you should believe very little of what you read. The media are out to make a story of anything they can, and the results can come out pretty twisted. If you don't believe me, just read Ford's letter (http://dmses.dot.gov/docimages/pdf99/430579_web.pdf) and then read Mr. Shepardson's article (http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061205/AUTO01/612050362/1148).
      • 8 Years Ago
      You can't knock too hard on Ford:

      My 1991 ranger flipped over on the freeway, about 60. I was driving, and I wasn't buckled up. My injuries were quickly treated with a single band-aid.

      Granted, my roof was totally flattened, I have no idea how I survived.

      So it isn't that there's something inherently wrong with these roofs, rather these vehicles are too prone to flipping over and too flipping heavy.
      • 8 Years Ago
      When will people take responsibility for driving like morons, and getting their cars to roll in the first place?

      I see too many a#$holes that drive as fast as possible no matter what the conditions are, so as far as I'm concerned, that is the price you pay for driving like a fool.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Thank goodness these are all photos of previous-generation models.

      I sincerely hope Ford is making significant progress here. A higher center of gravity might make one pause and think about roof integrity, but apparently it isn't always so.
      • 8 Years Ago
      i wonder if those crushed roofs have anything at all to do with the fact that every time I'm avoiding someone on the road it is a truck or SUV. maybe they should start paying attention... recall the recent articles on the Carrera GT that was totalled avoiding a pickup....
      • 8 Years Ago
      After working in this industry for a while, it is pretty sad to see some of the things that are common for the automakers. Roofs being de-engineered to save money, the use of MILD steel in key structural components and fittings and joints in obvious buckle points over the occupants are all common-place. Ford is by far the worst in the roof-strength category with chevy close behind. The japanese are in fact better, as shown in many tests, and many of the german and swedish companies will crush less than 4 inches in a rollover event, as compared to 12+ from the american cars. The sad fact, however, is that the newer generations, specifically the explorer are no better than the last with regards to roof strength, with only slight improvements in stability-control programming.

      These companies really need to shape up and realize that the consumer would not mind paying that extra $11 (yes thats an accurate number) for the roof safety, and they would not even have to take the financial hit. Instead they choose to pocket the difference, and pay lawyers with a small chunk of it. And there is a reason why ford is trying to keep roof-strength documents sealed. Ever wonder why ownership of Volvo hasnt made any improvements in Ford's safety? Yeah, so has quite a few lawyers, but Ford has managed to have Volvo's (FORD's) documents sealed from cases pertaining to Ford vehicles because it is obvious that the parent company is not taking any hints from the better engineers. You want safety, dont drive a Ford, better yet, dont drive a big truck thinking its a car....
      • 8 Years Ago
      These pictures show exactly why Ford is in so much trouble.

      It's the bottom-line mentality to engineering. For the marketing claims of Ford being "built tough," clearly the only consideration was whether they met the letter of the law in terms of roof strength.

      Think about that. Instead of engineers sitting around saying, "Okay, we gotta make a roof strong enough so that it doesn't cave in in a roll-over," they basically said, "Okay, it's strong enough to pass inspection. Hope it doesn't roll over."

      Even with the promise to make the roofs stronger, notice Ford didn't say, "We'll do whatever we need to do to make it strong enough to protect the occupents in a rollover," but the weasily, "It's gonna be 20% stronger!"

      Never mind whether a mere 20% increase in strength will do anything to protect the passengers.

      Bottom-line engineering, folks.
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