Japanese and German automakers dominate safest car list in US

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

IIHS Names Latest Top Safety Pick+ and Top Safety Pick Vehicles.

WASHINGTON: A U.S. safety group said Japanese and German automakers dominated the list of the safest vehicles on American roads, in part by adding advanced technology to prevent frontal collisions. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG had the most models rated among the safest U.S. vehicles in a year-end review by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.A widely read list of top automotive safety picks for 2016 was released Thursday, and out of 48 model cars and SUVs tested, six Subarus made the list, while only one American model qualified — the Chrysler 200 sedan.

The 2016 Chrysler 200 is the only domestic-brand model to earn a place on the 2016 TSP+ list (although the Fiat 500X, from the same parent company, also makes the list). A total of 48 car and sport-utility models got the institute’s safest car designation of “top safety pick plus.” Toyota’s vehicles on the list ranged from the $16,000 Scion iA to the Lexus RC, a large luxury car which retails for more than $40,000. The IIHS announcement comes just days after U.S. auto safety regulators unveiled on Tuesday a major proposed overhaul to crash safety tests that will require automakers to add crash avoidance technologies to new vehicles if they want to gain the top, five-star ratings. Vehicles must now score a Good rating in the small overlap front test, and they still must score Good in the moderate overlap front crash, side crash, roof strength, and head restraint tests. In order to meet the requirements for the more stringent Top Safety Pick+ designation, a vehicle must meet the above standards and also have, as standard or optional equipment, a frontal collision autobraking system that scores as Advanced or Superior.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing three new ratings for cars and trucks on pedestrian safety, crash worthiness and crash avoidance under its New Car Assessment Program. The increased requirements to qualify for the awards directly reflect the effort to influence auto manufacturers to improve vehicle crashworthiness and promote the availability of front crash protection systems that can mitigate injuries. Each year, the agency, which makes its decisions firmly rooted in real-world results from accident data and injury and fatality rates, tightens the criteria just a bit more. The aim is to re-create real-world crash situations where vehicles rarely hit objects head-on, but rather “catch a corner,” as IIHS spokesman Adrian Lund, describes it. “Crashes are not really nice, symmetrical affairs,” said Lund, explaining why his organization has long placed high value on the partial front collision. “You often get crushing of the relatively soft front parts of the car. To get the institute’s highest designation, vehicles have to perform well in a tough offset frontal crash test and also offer automatic braking technology.

Three years ago, the group shifted to the test, in which a small part of a vehicle’s front end strikes a fixed barrier at 40 miles per hour, in an effort to reduce fatalities and injuries in crashes like those involving a off-road tree or utility pole. But on Tuesday the NHTSA said it would implement a five-star rating system that includes a so-called frontal oblique crash test that measures angled front crashes, among other changes. More than 20 winners of the Top Safety Pick award last year did not qualify for 2016. “As vehicles continue to improve, however, we think it’s important to recognize that progress and encourage further advances by making our ratings more stringent,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said. For costs reasons, the NHTSA has yet to require all automakers selling cars in the U.S. to offer the front-end collision avoidance systems, which warn drivers of impending rear-end crashes and then intervene to automatically brake if the driver doesn’t respond.

The auto-safety regulator is also introducing a new crash-test dummy with more sensitive injury sensors and would adjust its star ratings to include credit for crash-avoidance technologies. But in September, 10 major automakers and the NHTSA agreed to a timeline for making the front-end crash-avoidance technology standard in all new cars the same way seat belts and air bags have become commonplace. In the insurance-industry ratings, some models that got the IIHS top safety designation last year fell off the list with 2016 models, because the institute shifted its minimum criteria from “acceptable,” its second-highest rating, to “good,” its highest. Small cars: Acura ILX, Lexus CT 200h, Mazda3, Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Impreza, Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Golf (four-door and SportWagen models), and Volkswagen GTI (4-door) Midsize moderately priced cars: Chrysler 200, Honda Accord coupe, Honda Accord sedan, Mazda 6, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius V, Volkswagen Jetta, and Volkswagen Passat Large luxury cars: Acura RLX, Audi A6 (built after January 2015), Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q70 (not V8 AWD models), Lexus RC, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Volvo S80

Driver-assistance features like automatic braking, forward-collision alerts and a lane-departure warning are standard, the company said in a statement Thursday. The top-pick designation “demonstrates Volkswagen’s longstanding commitment to vehicle safety and the development of innovative technologies,” Mark McNabb, chief operating officer of Volkswagen of America, Inc., said in the statement. The agency did point out that tests of more vehicles are forthcoming—and more models that have been recently redesign, refreshed, or changed in significant ways may be added to the list (or back to the list) as they’re tested.

The agency lists the Nissan Maxima as a model that’s improved its small overlap frontal ratings (it was redesigned for 2016), while the refreshed 2016 Volkswagen Passat has also brought its ratings up to ‘good.’

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