GM, Ford squabble over towing capacity ratings

GM pickup truck production halted due to Japan earthquake
(AP Photo/General Motors)

(CBS News) Automakers are globe-spanning industrial powerhouses. But that doesn't make them mature. A recent change to pickup truck towing standards has turned into a squabble between carmaking titans, as General Motors is accusing Ford of postponing their release of the new standards the artificially inflate their numbers.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) came up with a new system to define trailer weight rating - called J2807 (a true engineering name if ever there was one) - in the hopes of providing a more accurate measure for towing. J2807 was designed with input from carmakers around the world and was designed to provide more reliable comparisons between manufacturers and level the pickup playing field.

The new system also reduced tow ratings across the board, sometimes as dramatically as 1,000 pounds less. Not a problem if all automakers agree to adopt the new system together, but, unsurprisingly, some carmakers were less than inclined to do so.

Towing capacity can be a major selling point for consumers, so the new rating system will only work if all manufacturers agree to adopt the new standards together. That was supposed to happen this year. GM already released their new numbers, and when Ford decided to wait until its "all-new models come to market," things got heated.

GM released a statement saying that "key competitors" - meaning the Ford Motor Company - "are continuing to use their existing ratings for 2012 model year pickups. Retaining out existing rating system will reduce confusion for dealers and customers."

Unfortunately, the cat is already out of the bag for GM, which released its new numbers weeks ago. The SAE's J2807 has been widely praised as offering a more accurate, objective system to measuring towing capacity. Hopefully these major-league manufacturers can put their squabble behind them and get on the same page. But we're not holding our breath.