Most Luxury Cars Did Not Ace New IIHS Crash Test
Of the 11 model-year 2012 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars tested in a new, more-rigorous Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test, only two cars received “good” ratings, and one car an “acceptable” rating; the other eight failed the test or received “marginal” ratings, according to news reports.
The “good” ratings were earned by the Acura TL and Volvo S60 sedans, and the “acceptable” rating went to the Infiniti G, Jim Gorzelany reports for Forbes. The Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ, and Volkswagen CC came through the test with only “marginal” ratings; and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4, and Lexus ES 350 got “poor” ratings.
In explaining the reason IIHS tested the cars in the new partial front end test, Institute President Adrian Lund said, “Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year,” as Paul A. Eisenstein writes for The Detroit Bureau in an article appearing on The Bottom Line, on NBCNews.com.
Eisenstein writes about the new test:
As part of the test a vehicle is driven into a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph, but only 25 percent of the driver’s side of the vehicle actually makes contact with the barrier. The test simulates what often happens when two vehicles clip one another on a local road where one driver might inadvertently cross the center line, or where a vehicle hits a tree or utility pole.
An IIHS press release says that “Outside of some automakers’ proving grounds, such a test isn’t currently conducted anywhere else in the United States or Europe.” A 2009 Institute study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection found that “small overlap” crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants, IIHS says.
Most of the models tested in this new “small overlap frontal crash test” — including those receiving marginal and poor ratings — were named “top safety picks” in the Institute’s other tests (for front, side and rear-impact crashes), Gorzelany writes. But according to the IIHS, this new test evaluates the crashworthiness of a car’s outer edges that are not often protected by “crush zones.”
The new test also evaluates a vehicle’s airbags and seatbelts in ways that other frontal tests do not. Crash forces in these types of accidents go directly into the front wheel, suspension system, and firewall, which the IIHS contends results in serious leg and foot injuries, Gorzelany writes.
Eisenstein writes that an NHTSA statement praised the new tests, saying it “looks forward to seeing how vehicle manufacturers respond to this new rating criteria and the safety benefits it will yield.” He notes:
Safety experts credit tests run by both federal regulators and the IIHS with prompting automakers to improve the ability of their vehicles to survive crashes — something that has played out in a sharp decline in highway fatalities in recent years. In vehicles no more than three years old, the number of fatalities from frontal crashes, in particular, has declined by 55 percent since 2001.