Ford, Subaru, VW clean up in IIHS tests

November 18, 2009

From MSNBC:

“Ford, Subaru and Volkswagen sit atop the U.S. insurance industry’s annual list of the safest new vehicles, according to a closely watched assessment used by car companies to lure safety-conscious consumers to showrooms.”

Well, Ford just seems to be on a streak – winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for their Fusion yesterday, and now getting recognition for safer cars from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Subaru also did well in the tests – almost every vehicle they have is a Top Pick. Volkswagen did well too.

GM was represented by the new Buick Lacrosse (yes!) and the Chevrolet Malibu. Chrysler had the Sebring/Dodge Avenger, Dodge Journey, and Jeep Patriot with thorax airbags. Honda had the four-door Civic with optional ESC, and their Element.

The Nissan Cube, Kia Soul, and Mercedes C-Class complete the list.

Now, Ford’s Taurus and the Lincoln MKS and Volvo models were on the list – of course they were! The Ford Taurus/Lincoln MKS are built on Volvo’s platforms. (I am not being derogatory here – I liked the platform so much I completely supported my wife getting a 2008 Mercury Sable Premier). But I also know that Volvo has built their reputation on safety, so if Ford uses those platforms they are going to reap those same benefits.

I am very impressed that Subaru did so well – side crash tests, front crashes, rear crashes, even roof strength- these don’t do well in small cars, which is what Subaru is known for.

What was strange about this round of safety tests was the absence of an entire company – Toyota. I want cars to be safe, and I want everyone who buys a new car to be as safe as possible – whether having enough safety technology to be able to avoid a crash in the first place, or having enough to survive a crash you can’t avoid. But, I have to say – I am happy Toyota is no longer getting a free ride. No longer do they get listed, or get awards for just being Toyota. They are actually going to have to work for it – and prove themselves.

Another thing that I am not sure about – that some cars get on the list, provided they have certain options. Is the customer going to actually know that a Honda Civic got the award – or that a Honda Civic four door with optional electronic stability control was the one that got the award? A Jeep Patriot with optional thorax airbags? I think it’s wonderful that more automakers are putting an emphasis on safety, and including more airbags. Less than 5 years ago, it was hard to find a car that had more than the required two airbags – now some cars have nine or ten airbags, and almost all have 6 (front, side front, side head). It’s nice to know that a vehicle that has certain options is the one that got the pick, but shouldn’t those features be standard?

Buick, in their 2005 Lacrosse, only got a mention for safety if the vehicle was the CXS trim level, or a lower level CX or CXL equipped with the side head curtain airbags. Buick changed the Lacrosse in ’06 to include those airbags on every trim level. (It probably helped that the Impala, which shares its platform with the Lacrosse got 6 standard airbags). I’m not saying everyone should follow an example set by Buick, I am only saying that Buick did the right thing in equipping their vehicles with the needed safety technology. I would like to see more automakers doing this – if your vehicle needs certain options to be considered a Top Safety Pick, equip every model with those options. Cost more? Yes – but vehicles usually go up in price every year anyway.

Again, I am very happy that cars are getting safer – and that the IIHS is testing more ways to prove that the cars are safe.

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