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Variance

Ford, Mazda minivans earn poor ratings in side

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WASHINGTON -- The insurance industry's first tests of how well minivans hold up in side impact crashes gave poor marks Sunday to the 2006 Ford Freestar and Mazda MPV models without side air bags.

Those air bags are an option costing several hundred dollars on the Freestar and the MPV. Rival automakers already include the air bags in their minivans, a class of vehicle popular with families.

The Freestar and MPV models without side air bags earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's lowest ranking, or poor, in the crash results.

The highest marks went to the 2006 models of the Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest and Honda Odyssey. The institute said the vehicles excelled at protecting people in crashes that typically occur at intersections when a vehicle runs a red light or stop sign.

"Manufacturers should follow the lead of Honda, Nissan and Toyota in making head-protecting side air bags standard in their minivans. Important safety equipment like this shouldn't be optional," said Adrian Lund, the institute's chief operating officer.

A Freestar with optional head curtain air bags for all three rows of seats and front seat-mounted torso air bags received the institute's second-highest rating, acceptable.

The Freestar's corporate twin, the Mercury Monterey, has the side air bags standard. It also got the second-highest ranking.

Mazda chose not to request a test of the MPV with optional combination side air bags, which are designed to protect the torso and heads of front-seat motorists.

The Sienna, Quest and Odyssey come with curtain-style air bags designed to protect motorists' heads. The side structure of the vehicles are also built to resist major intrusion into the compartment.

Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said the Freestar is designed to provide "a high level of protection in a wide range of crashes." He noted that the acceptable' rating highlights the added safety benefits of the available side impact air bags.

On the Freestar, the side air bags are included in a $695 safety package which provides head protection for all three rows, Ford said.

Mazda said a package of seat-mounted side air bags and traction control cost an additional $400 on the MPV LX. The package is standard on the MPV's top-end ES model.

Mazda was disappointed with the test results but said it "stands behind the safety and quality of the MPV minivan," said Robert Davis, a senior vice president for research, development and quality.

The institute's tests found that in the MPV, a barrier struck the head of a driver dummy and there was intrusion into the passenger compartment.

Institute officials said a similar real-world crash probably would have damaged the driver's internal organs and fractured his ribs.

In the test of the Freestar without side air bags, the barrier nearly hit the driver dummy's head and the vehicle's poor structure led to high forces on the driver dummy's chest, the institute reported.

In the institute's side impact test, vehicles are struck with a barrier moving at 31 mph to reflect the force of a pickup or sport utility vehicle.


On the Net:


Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org/

Link: http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0...auto-373752.htm
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While laudable, time and time again it has been proven that safety doesn't sell. If that wasn't true, we would all be driving Volvos. Case in point, the 2001 Venture Value van included side air bags and ABS, but only had power locks, a/c and a Cd - no power windows, etc. Priced exactly the same, the Caravan had no ABS and no side air bags, but had all the power toys. Guess what: in this market the Carvan sold more than TWICE as many Ventures. So, GM dropped ABS and side air bags in 2003 and we sold a helluva lot more of them because they now had power windows, keyless, etc. The trouble is, Toyota and Honda minivans are over priced. In this market, the transaction price for the Sienna and Odyssey is about $5,000 more than a comparably Equipped Uplander. How many families can afford to spend THAT much more for a supposedly superior van? But as long a CR and the insurance institute keep harping about the "superiority" of Toyota and Honda, they will be proven right because Ford and GM will have no money left to develop anything new or innovative and their products will age and die, along with both companies.
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I would argue safety sells because its another thing people can have and lord over someone else. "I have ABS" "Well, I have traction control" "Well, I have stability control" "Well, my car lasers anything that I could crash into."
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Obviously there's a market for minivans that sell for more than your Uplander/Venture, including minivans that don't look like the Venture after the IIHS put it through its paces. Why didn't GM include power windows, etc. along with the side airbags and raise the transaction price?
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Answer: short-sightedness. At present, in the minivan arena, GM is so obsessed with fighting Chrysler for minivan market share (at the low end of the price scale, obviously) that it doesn't seem to care about the higher end of the market. For most families, a $400 lease is all they can afford, so arguments as to whether the Sienna or Odyssey are better or not are academic. I have no doubt that the next generation Chevrolet minivan will be a blockbuster (remember, the Uplander was merely a hasty nose job and face lift to keep people coming out of Venture leases happy - there are only so many development dollars to go around.) I just hope we are all still around to see GM play catch up to Sienna. Besides, Toyota shouldn't feel too smug. They only just made the side air bags standard in 2006. GM did have them standard for 5 models years before making them optional!
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Safety can sell. If I worked at a Toyota or Honda dealer, I'd just show this picture to my minivan customers:

Posted Image

I wonder why they bothered to test the lame-duck Mazda.
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Well, if someone drops a brick wall in the middle of the highway, I'd better take care.........................
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As far as the GM CSVs go, it should be interesting how well they do. Their B-pillars look the same as the ones from the '97 Venture, so I'm doubtful they've changed the side structure. However, the CSVs are several inches taller than conventional vans, so perhaps the dummy's head might miss slamming into the barrier. Plus, the floor should take more of the impact than the original vans. The rear passengers should be okay with the new optional seat-mounted bags. I predict "Poor" without airbags and an "Acceptable" with the airbags.
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