On December 10, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its safety ratings for 2016 model vehicles. Of the 48 that earned the top rating — Top Safety Pick Plus — only one is manufactured in the United States, the Chrysler 200.
Bennett Halvorson, writing for The Car Connection, said that the agency, which is funded by the U.S. insurance industry, has been finding a surprising safety gap down brand and automaker lines. The absence of effective automatic braking systems in U.S. vehicles is one of the main reasons domestic models aren’t earning the top rating.
Compared with American automakers, Toyota has nine models on the top list for 2016, Honda has eight, and Subaru has six. Halvorson noted that all but one of the models that Subaru sells in the U.S. made the cut, the exception being its BRZ sports car.
American-made cars are not getting top ratings from IIHS because the agency’s requirements have gotten tougher, Halvorson wrote. For the 2016 ratings, it was the first time that IIHS required a vehicle to earn a top “good” result in the small overlap frontal test in order to be rated Top Safety Pick Plus. In addition, a car needs to get a “good” or “acceptable” rating in front crash prevention. Those ratings are determined by whether a vehicle has automatic braking, and by its performance when tested at 12 and 25 mph.
Four models that previously made the Top Safety Pick Plus list didn’t earn the rating this time, including the Toyota Highlander SUV and the Toyota Sienna minivan. “They failed to meet the top-tier small overlap front test requirement; both of those models earn the second-best ‘acceptable’ rating in that test,” Halvorson wrote.
Many vehicles that are otherwise top-rated do not offer a front-crash prevention system, including the 2016 Audi Q3. The only mini-car to earn a 2016 IIHS award is the 2016 Scion iA. The subcompact sedan is the first low-priced car (starting price is $16,495) to have an automatic braking system as standard.
Of the 48 Top Safety Pick Plus winners for 2016, 31 offer front crash protection systems that were rated “superior,” and 17 models offer such systems that are rated “advanced.” Thirteen models were named Top Safety Pick (minus the plus).
IIHS released a list of all of the cars rated Top Safety Pick Plus and Top Safety Pick. IIHS President Adrian Lund said:
Consumers who purchased a winning 2015 model that doesn’t qualify this year needn’t worry that their vehicles are now less safe. 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. This year’s winners are certainly safer than the vehicles that earned our first TOP SAFETY PICK awards 10 years ago. […] Ask for autobrake and forward collision warning features when you’re out shopping for a new vehicle. Look for good ratings in IIHS evaluations and at least 4 of 5 stars from NHTSA. And remember that larger, heavier vehicles offer the best protection in a crash.
Here’s an IIHS video explaining the 2016 model tests: