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IIHS crowned 66 Top Safety Picks in 2011

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IIHS crowned 66 Top Safety Picks in 2011

by Zach Bowman (RSS feed) on Dec 21st 2010 at 7:23PM


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its list of vehicles with the highest crash ratings for 2011. A total of 66 vehicles were awarded the honor of becoming an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with 40 cars, 25 SUVs and one minivan making the cut. As you may recall, the organization awards its Top Safety Pick designation to vehicles that achieve the highest possible rating in front, side, rollover and rear crashes. They also must come equipped with traction control as standard equipment.

This year, Hyundai/Kia and VW/Audi both tied as manufacturers with the highest number of Top Safety Picks with a total of nine winning models. Ford/Lincoln, General Motors and Toyota/Lexus/Scion all took second place with a total of eight Top Safety Picks each. Subaru has managed to retain its title as the only automaker to have a Top Safety Pick designation for every vehicle it sells, too.

Interestingly enough, The Volkswagen Touareg became the only large SUV to take home a Top Safety Pick for 2011, and the 2011 Ford Explorer managed to make its way onto the Top Safety Pick list for the first time in the vehicle's history. Hit the jump for the full press release.

[source: IIHS]

Show full PR text

66 winners of 2011 TOP SAFETY PICK award; automakers quickly improve roofs to boost rollover protection

ARLINGTON, VA - Sixty-six vehicles earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's TOP SAFETY PICK award for 2011, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan. TOP SAFETY PICK recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. Winners also must have available electronic stability control, a crash avoidance feature that significantly reduces crash risk. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

Last year the Institute toughened criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK by adding a requirement that all qualifiers must earn a good rating for performance in a roof strength test to assess protection in a rollover crash. The move sharply narrowed the initial field of 2010 winners. At the beginning of the 2010 model year, only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, but the number grew to 58 as auto manufacturers reworked existing designs and introduced new models. Now another 10 vehicles join the winners' list for 2011. Two discontinued models drop off.

"In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK," says Adrian Lund, the Institute's president. "That gives consumers shopping for a safer new car or SUV - from economy to luxury models - plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms. In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."

Front-runners: Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi each have 9 winners for 2011. Next in line with 8 awards apiece are General Motors, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion. Subaru is the only manufacturer with a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competes. Subaru earns 5 awards for 2011.

"Safety is a priority among this crop of winners," Lund says. "From the start these manufacturers set out to design vehicles that would earn TOP SAFETY PICK, even though we've made it harder to win."

One of them is Ford. For 2011, the automaker is rolling out a new design for its popular Explorer midsize SUV, which until now had never earnedTOP SAFETY PICK. Ford also upgraded the roofs of 2 other midsize SUVs, the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT, along with the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, 2 midsize cars that missed the initial round of 2010 winners because they lacked the required roof strength. The all-new Ford Fiesta rounds out Ford's winners and is the only minicar to earn TOP SAFETY PICK this year.

General Motors' new Chevrolet Cruze broadens the number of award-winning options for consumers looking to buy a fuel-efficient small car. GM built the Cruze, which has 10 standard airbags, including ones for the knees, to outperform the government's minimum roof strength requirements and touts the achievement as a selling point.

The redesigned Volkswagen Touareg is the only large SUV to earn TOP SAFETY PICK for 2011. The Institute doesn't normally evaluate SUVs this large, but Volkswagen requested crash tests to demonstrate the Touareg's crashworthiness.

None of the small pickups the Institute has evaluated qualified for this year's award, and large pickups haven't yet been tested.

The Institute awarded the first TOP SAFETY PICK to 2006 models and then raised the bar the next year by requiring good rear test results and electronic stability control as either standard or optional equipment. With last year's addition of new criteria for roof crush the Institute's crash test ratings now cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes.

More than 12,000 people died in frontal crashes of passenger vehicles in 2009 in the United States, more than 6,000 died in side impacts, and more than 8,000 died in rollovers, many of which also involved a front or side impact. Rear-end crashes usually aren't fatal but result in a large proportion of injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most commonly reported injury in two-thirds of insurance claims for injuries in all kinds of crashes.

Vehicles rated good for rollover crash protection have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement.

Quick strides in occupant protection: When the first roof crush results were released in March 2009, only a third of the SUVs tested had good roofs. Since then about 113 vehicles have been tested, and the majority are rated good for roof strength.

Hyundai is a case in point. The Tucson and the small SUV's twin, the Kia Sportage, earned a poor rating for roof strength in 2009, with the weakest roof among all of the small SUVs evaluated that year. A redesign helped the 2011 models secure a good rating and TOP SAFETY PICK. Hyundai also improved the roof on another SUV, the midsize Santa Fe, and redesigned the Sonata, a midsize car that had earned a marginal roof rating the first time around.

The outlook for side-impact protection has brightened, too, Lund notes. Many cars failed the side test the Institute began conducting in 2003, but now most vehicles ace the test thanks to stronger side structures and standard side airbags that protect the head and torso. It's an important improvement because new Institute research shows that the risk of dying in a crash is sharply lower for people in vehicles that earn good ratings in the Institute's side test.

Chrysler added torso airbags to the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee to bolster side crash protection and earn a good side rating. The previous design relied on head curtain airbags to cushion occupants in side crashes and only rated marginal for side protection.

Safety equipment is increasingly standard. Ninety-two percent of 2011 model cars, 94 percent of SUVs, and 56 percent of pickups have standard head and torso side airbags. Electronic stability control is standard on 92 percent of cars, 100 percent of SUVs, and 72 percent of pickups.

"Automakers deserve credit for quickly rising to meet the more-challenging criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK," Lund says. "Several already have requested tests for new models due to ship early next year, so we expect to add even more winners to the 2011 list."

The Institute groups TOP SAFETY PICK winners according to vehicle type and size. Lund advises consumers to keep in mind that size and weight influence crashworthiness. Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford better occupant protection in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones. Even with a TOP SAFETY PICK, a small car isn't as crashworthy as a bigger one.

How vehicles are evaluated: The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on 2 instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing a 5th percentile woman, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.

In the roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 side of a roof at a displacement rate of 0.2 inch per second. To earn a good rating for rollover protection, the roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. This is called a strength-to-weight ratio.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry - the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man.

Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.

ALL 66 WINNERS (red indicates new winners for 2011)

Large cars

Buick LaCrosse

Buick Regal

BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)

Cadillac CTS sedan

Ford Taurus

Hyundai Genesis

Infinite M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive)

Lincoln MKS

Mercedes E class coupe

Mercedes E class sedan

Toyota Avalon

Volvo S80

Midsize cars

Audi A3

Audi A4 sedan

Chevrolet Malibu

Chrysler 200 4-door

Dodge Avenger

Ford Fusion

Hyundai Sonata

Kia Optima

Lincoln MKZ

Mercedes C class

Subaru Legacy

Subaru Outback

Volkswagen Jetta sedan

Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

Volvo C30

Small cars

Chevrolet Cruze

Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control

Kia Forte sedan

Kia Soul

Mitsubishi Lancer (except 4-wheel drive)

Nissan Cube

Scion tC

Scion xB

Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)

Volkswagen Golf 4-door

Volkswagen GTI 4-door


Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010


Toyota Sienna

Large SUV

Volkswagen Touareg

Midsize SUVs

Audi Q5

Cadillac SRX

Chevrolet Equinox

Dodge Journey

Ford Explorer

Ford Flex

GMC Terrain

Hyundai Santa Fe

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Kia Sorento built after March 2010

Lexus RX

Lincoln MKT

Mercedes GLK

Subaru Tribeca

Toyota Highlander

Toyota Venza

Volvo XC60

Volvo XC90

Small SUVs

Honda Element

Hyundai Tucson

Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags

Kia Sportage

Subaru Forester

Volkswagen Tiguan



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Vehicle safety takes big leap

More vehicles — under tougher standards — win accolades from insurance institute

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The number of cars and trucks awarded top safety honors by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety more than doubled for 2011, with 66 vehicles cited as best for protecting occupants in front, side, rollover and rear crashes.

The Virginia-based industry-supported group, which prods automakers to improve the safety of vehicles, announced its Top Safety Picks for 2011 late Tuesday, honoring 40 cars, 25 SUVs and one minivan.

Among automakers, Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Corp. and its Kia unit had the most vehicles honored — nine.

Only 27 vehicles qualified for last year's award, after the

group toughened its standards in 2009, requiring automakers to do more to strengthen vehicle roofs and protect occupants during rollover crashes.

That number grew to 58 by year's end after automakers reworked

designs and introduced new models to meet the tougher requirements.

Another 10 models were added; two discontinued models dropped off the list.

"In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for Top Safety Pick," said Adrian Lund, the institute's president. "That gives consumers shopping for a safer new car or SUV — from economy to luxury models — plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms. In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."

Lund said several automakers have requested tests for new models due to ship early next year — and he expects to add more winners.

In addition to receiving good ratings in the crash tests, vehicles must offer electronic stability control, a crash-avoidance feature that significantly reduces the risk of accidents, the institute said.

Volkswagen and its Audi unit added three winners — the Jetta sedan, GTI and Touareg. The institute doesn't normally test SUVs as large as the Touareg, but VW asked for the test.

The Kia Optima and Hyundai Santa Fe were added to the South Korean automaker's list this year.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. each had eight winners for 2011, up from seven for 2010.

The new Chevrolet Cruze — with 10 air bags — was added to GM's list. Ford's new 2011 Explorer won for the first time, and its Fiesta is the only minicar to win the honor this year.

Toyota added the Scion tC. Subaru had five winners; so did Chrysler Group LLC, including the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which added side torso air bags and boosted its side impact rating.

Daimler AG's Mercedes unit and Volvo each had four awards, while Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. each had two Automakers tout Top Safety Picks in advertising and often make safety improvements in an effort to win the ratings.

Safety has climbed in importance in recent years among consumers in making buying choices.

The institute said 92 percent of 2011 model cars and 94 percent of SUVs now have head- and torso-protecting side air bags, while anti-rollover electronic stability control is on 92 percent of cars and 100 percent of SUVs.

Under federal requirements, electronic stability control must be on all vehicles by the 2012 model year, and side air bags by the 2013 model year.

The institute's efforts to bolster roofs is aimed at helping people survive rollover crashes, which account for more than 8,000 deaths a year.

Rollovers represent 3 percent of all crashes, but account for one-third of all vehicle deaths.

Federal regulators also have toughened roof strength standards and crash ratings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration bolstered the standards for its five-star crash ratings this year.

To date, just six models have gotten five stars under the new criteria; the ratings will appear on vehicle stickers in the 2012 model year.

"Consumers are benefiting from auto safety advances," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, noting traffic deaths fell dramatically last year.

In 2009, traffic deaths dropped to 33,808 — the fewest since 1950, down nearly 10 percent from 2008.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101222/AUTO01/12220354/Vehicle-safety-takes-big-leap#ixzz18qYvdDUl

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66 vehicles, most ever, get top safety award


Associated Press

South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia and German carmaker Volkswagen lead the insurance industry's annual list of the safest new vehicles, used by safety-minded consumers looking to buy a car.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognized 66 vehicles on Wednesday with its "top safety pick award" for the 2011 model year, the most-ever awarded by the Virginia-based group. The number was more than double the 27 vehicles selected last year.

The vehicles were chosen for protection in front, side and rear crash tests. To qualify, the insurance industry group also requires the vehicles to have anti-rollover electronic stability control and receive top scores in roof strength tests.

Hyundai and its affiliate Kia and Volkswagen and its Audi brand received the most awards with nine, followed by eight awards apiece by General Motors, Ford and Toyota.

Hyundai's Genesis sedan, Sonata midsize and Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs picked up awards, while Kia was recognized for the Optima midsize car, the Forte and Soul small cars, and the Sorento and Sportage SUVs. Volkswagen won plaudits for the Jetta and Jetta SportWagen, the Golf and GTI small cars and the Touareg and Tiguan SUVs. Audi's A3 and A4 sedans and Q5 SUV also made the list.

Subaru and Chrysler received five awards apiece while Volvo and Mercedes had four. Nissan and Honda had two awards each and Mitsubishi and BMW had one.

GM's winners include the Chevrolet Malibu, Cruze and Equinox; Cadillac CTS and SRX; Buick LaCrosse and Regal and GMC Terrain.

Ford's picks include the Ford Taurus, Fusion, Fiesta, Explorer and Flex, and the Lincoln MKS, MKZ and MKT.

Toyota, which has grappled with several high-profile recalls during the past year, scored with the Toyota Avalon, Corolla, Sienna, Highlander and Venza; the Lexus RX, and the Scion tC

Read more: 66 vehicles, most ever, get top safety award | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20101222/BUSINESS01/12220416/66-vehicles-most-ever-get-top-safety-award#ixzz18qaNmWI3

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Hyundai, Volkswagen earn most top safety picks

03:03 AM

Corporate cousins Hyundai and Kia, not to mention Volkswagen and its luxury division Audi, won more top safety picks than any other brands in 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says today.

Each had nine. General Motors, Ford Motor and Toyota followed with eight each. A total of 66 vehicles got top safety marks for the year, the IIHS says.

The honors went to 40 cars, 25 SUVs and a single minivan. IIHS says the competition was narrowed by the requirement this year for a roof strength test that still has automakers trying to catch up. One of the cars given the coveted status was the Kia Soul, pictured above.

More automakers are designing vehicles in order to pass the IIHS test. One of them is Ford. Its old Explorer never got top safety marks, but the new one, just hitting showroom floors now, does.

The industry still has a ways to go. The only large SUV to get top safety marks this year was Volkswagen's Touareg. Interesting considering as the bulkiest vehicles on the road, you'd think that SUVs would have a greater safety margin built in.



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2011 IIHS Top Safety Picks Highlight Roof-Protection Improvements


2011 Kia OptimaEnlarge PhotoTen all-new vehicles including the 2011 Ford Explorer, 2011 Kia Optima, and 2011 Chevrolet Cruze earn Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick Status right from the start, while a total of 66 vehicles earn the distinction for 2011.

Automakers with the most Top Safety Picks include Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi, both with nine 2011 winners. GM, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion each has eight, while Subaru was the only automaker to have a Top Safety Pick in every vehicle class in which it competes. Several models from Ford, Hyundai and Kia stood among the most improved this past year

For 2010, the IIHS added a new stipulation for the top award: that models also needed to earn a 'good' rating in the new roof strength (rollover) test in order to be named a Top Safety Pick. At the beginning of the model year—partly because of the small number of vehicles tested at that time—there were 27 that qualified, but by the end of the year there were ten with the Top accolade and most of the vehicles recently tested have earned top scores. Side-impact scores have also improved quite dramatically since the IIHS began that test in 2003.

Going from 2010 to 2011, no models have lost the Top Safety Pick status, but ten more vehicles earn it. As last year, models must achieve top 'good' ratings in front, side, rollover (roof strength), and rear crash tests, and be available with electronic stability control.

Here are the ten new 2011 Top Safety Picks:

Chevrolet Cruze

Ford Explorer

Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Optima

Mercedes-Benz GLK

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

Scion tC

Volkswagen Jetta sedan

Volkswagen GTI

Volkswagen Touareg

For a list of all 66 models that are 2011 Top Safety Picks, visit IIHS.org—and browse the safety pages of our full reviews for more information on how models stack up with respect to safety features, crash tests, and other safety issues like outward visibility. The list for 2011 includes 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan—though no pickups.

For 2011, electronic stability control is standard on 100 percent of SUVs, 92 percent of cars, and 72 percent of pickup trucks; while head-and-torso side airbag systems are standard on 94 percent of SUVs, 92 percent of cars, and 56 percent of pickups.

The IIHS reminds shoppers that while Top Safety Picks help shoppers single out the safest models on the market, larger, heavier vehicles typically offer better protection than smaller, lighter vehicles in major crashes.



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