You're at the car dealership with your spouse and two children. Safety is a top concern to you because you want your family to be protected and you couldn't imagine life without them. You look your salesman in the eye and ask "is this vehicle safe?" He responds with, "It's best in class, a five-star crash rating." You take the guy in the plaid jacket at his word and buy the car. What you don't know is that the vehicle has a four-star rating in rear impact and on the passenger side the car gets only three. So many stars, so little sense.

Automakers are on-board with a new proposal that would lessen the safety crash confusion by giving one cumulative crash test score for each vehicle. The 30-year-old New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) needs to change now that the vast majority of cars receive a five-star ranking. Tests are likely to get tougher but an alliance of the Detroit three, Toyota, and others object to raising the front impact test speed to 35 mph. They also want to keep separate crash test and crash avoidance data. Honda, who is not in the alliance, doesn't like the idea of adding complexity to the final safety test score. Honda astutely points out that if it's tough for the government to come up with a proper formula that combines all information it would be impossible for the customer.

NHTSA is taking suggestions through April 10 on rules changes then will try to act in time for the 2008 model year. We welcome tougher testing and less confusing ratings for crash tests, and we're hoping that guy in the plaid jacket would lose the giant blow-up gorilla on top of the dealership. It's going to cause an accident.

[Source: Automotive News (subscription req'd)]