Honda has done something unusual, writes Pete Bigelow for Autoblog. The carmaker hurried to redesign the front of its 2015 Fit model even as the car started arriving in showrooms, in an attempt to get a safer rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small-front overlap crash test.
The IIHS had given the model a “marginal” in the crash test result back in March, Bigelow writes, because the steel bumper beam that runs behind the front fascia of the vehicle broke free in the crash, with much more of the crash energy being absorbed on the driver’s side. As Jerry Hirsch reports for the Los Angeles Times, in the small overlap crash test, the front corner of the car hits another vehicle or solid object at 40 miles per hour.
The newly designed 2015 has now been given an “acceptable” rating, which IIHS announced Thursday morning, Bigelow writes. Because the Fit 2015 had already earned “good” grades in IIHS’s four other crash tests, it will now be given the “Top Safety Pick” overall title, which is the organization’s second-highest ranking. Bigelow writes:
Many automakers, including Honda, often use such rankings in their advertising campaigns, and it’s an especially important differentiator in this case, because most of the subcompact cars that fall into the IIHS’ ‘minicar’ category typically fare poorly on the small-front overlap test. A marginal score would have prevented them from claiming that title.
Hirsch writes that although Honda and other automakers have called back cars in the past after not doing well in IIHS crash tests, those cases involved flaws that were relatively easy to fix, such as airbags that could be reprogrammed, or fuel system parts that needed strengthening to prevent leaks. He quotes Scott Oldham, editor of Edmunds.com, as calling the bumper replacement “unprecedented,” saying the decision “speaks to the company’s appreciation for proactively doing right by its customers from a safety perspective.”
Honda said that when it designed the car it believed the bumper beam was strong enough to deflect crash energy from the front corner that was struck in the crash test to the front corner that was not struck, Hirsch writes. The company said the beam broke in the test because the welds did not hold properly. The welds in the new beam are stronger, holding the bumper together and better distributing crash energy, Hirsch writes.
Once Honda contacts Fit owners instructing them to being their vehicles to dealers for the change, service departments will remove the plastic covering, unbold the existing beam, and replace it with that redesigned one, Hirsch reports. Chuck Thomas, Honda’s chief engineer for vehicle safety in the U.S., said the change would take about 30 minutes in labor time, Hirsch writes.
Here is a video of the new crash test: