• May 27, 2008

While rollover resistance is improving, current vehicle roof strength regulations date back nearly 35 years. With that in mind, Congress will be taking a careful look at federal regulators as they work on upgrading the standards early next month before they unveil a final regulation at the end of July. Current standards require a vehicle under 6,000 pounds to withstand a force of 1.5 times the vehicle weight without crushing and striking the head of a belted average-size adult male. In August 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed toughening that standard to 2.5 times the vehicle weight (and adding it should cover all vehicles under 10,000 pounds). Safety advocates, however, have argued that the standard should be 3 to 3.5 times the vehicle weight.

According to the NHTSA, increasing the crush resistance to 3 times the vehicle weight would cost automakers at least $1.1 billion more that it would to meet the 2.5 standard. Automakers have shown resistance to the proposals too. They have asked for more time to comply with the toughened rules, and that some vehicles (such as the Jeep Wrangler) be exempt. They have also pointed out that increased roof strength means added weight -- counterproductive in their continued efforts to meet stringent fuel economy standards.

[Source: The Detroit News, Photo from Volvo]



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  • 29 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      John- are you also again st side impact door beams? How about safety cages? Those safety features have added a lot of weight to vehicles over the years. Why is it you are opposed to this one and not the others? If you are opposed to the others, as well, good luck in an accident!

      I think most of the naysayers fail to realize that it is not absolute weight, but a percentage of the vehicle weight and overall vehicle dynamics that contribute to rollovers. To assume that automakers won't be able to compensate for added top-weight is ignorant.
        • 6 Years Ago
        actually no, I'm not. What I'm saying, is that they should be focusing on PREVENTING the accident instead of making sure you're safe beyond reason when you roll your top heavy, poor handling, and grossly obese SUV. I love a lot of the "safety cage" items. They tend to lead to an overal more rigid and better handling vehicle without adding huge amounts of weight. Heck have you looked at the roof structure of an Impreza? Built in cage basically. Really though, 1.5-2.5 times (without any penetration into the cabin by the way) the vehicles weight is plenty. Anything past that and you're trying to make it safe to roll a vehicle at obscene speeds.

        If we focused on safer driving, few distractions and using some common sense, most things would simply be an emergency back up and not a "necessity".
        • 6 Years Ago
        The way you compensate for top weight.. is you add even more weight down low to balance it out.

        And we wonder why family sedans are closing on two tons now.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "increasing the crush resistance to 3 times the vehicle weight would cost automakers at least $1.1 billion more"

      No, it wouldn't cost automakers anything. It would cost new car buyers $1.1 billion.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Great. Just what we need; fatter, chunkier, even-more-vision-impairing-than-they-are-now pillars on cars and SUVs!
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's worth pointing out the current testing methods, since hte author of this article left it out. Currently, they test the roof crush strength as follows: they apply a plate over the roof, and slowly apply the weight evenly over the entire roof. They do not apply it on one corner more than the others, nor do they apply it 'all at once'.

        This is part of the problem.
        • 6 Years Ago
        At least gas is more expensive now to go along with heavier cars, trucks, SUV's, and vans.

        However I'd rather pay a few more dollars in gas then have my noggin caved in.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It's not just a matter of spending a couple bucks more on gas and being as good as new. CAFE standards say make up for it somewhere else, either in weight or aerodynamics.

        So spending that weight budget on nerf the world items like ginormous roof pillars that 99.9% of buyers will never get any benefit whatsoever out of means cutting corners in other places.

        For example, making the body work out of onion skin sheet metal that dents when you look at it, shrinking side mirrors, removing sound deadening, deleting full sized spare tires, raising deck lids until you can barely see behind you, etc.

        And those sacrifices are things I would actually use.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hey, I have an idea! Since the automakers are bitching about the new CAFE standards, let's not only make the cars heavier, let's make the roof-pillars so thick that they virtually eliminate windows! Then no one will be able to drive the cars at all! We'll eliminate accidents AND conserve fuel!

      YOU STUPID SONS OF BITCHES!!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Although not a perfect solution, here’s my suggestion. Tie the roof strength requirement to the rollover rating. An RX8 (5 star rollover rating) could have soda straws for roof pillars as the likelihood of a roll-over is very small, but the Jeep Liberty (2 stars) would have to have (in comparison) I-beams like a Manhattan skyscraper. The roof strength standards for vehicles with ratings between those two extremes would fall somewhere in between.
        • 6 Years Ago
        what if your rx-8 goes off a cliff on the one of the mountain roads that those cars were made for and rolls, then what?

        Installing a roll cage in a race car is similar to this and installing a cage actually makes the car less likely to roll because it minimizes body flex and increases handling limits even though it adds weight and raises the center of gravity slightly.

        The problem is not that the new regulations are technically hard to meet its that any car company is against "unnecessarily" spending money on high quality, light weight materials that would be stronger and lighter than the current paper thin steel.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great...more rules, more standards and more government laws...because of the morons who think they can drive a Grand Cherokee like it was a Mini.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Perry- the real morons are the ones who think the only way to roll an SUV is by driving it recklessly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My issue with this is very simple.

      All of the other safety equipment mandatory in cars so far protects you primarily from other people--safety cages, side impact and front impact tests, airbags--ensure that if somebody hits you with their Suburban, you'll survive.

      Roof-strength is intended to protect you from yourself, much like ESC--almost completely unnecessary if the driver knows what they're doing. Which means we're paying for a few morons who can't drive right, or refuse to drive something they can (i.e. a car with a CoG that's lower than Mt. Everest).

      After all, how many times has someone else's Suburban fallen on top of your head?
        • 6 Years Ago
        For whatever anecdotal evidence is worth, the only rollover I've seen was caused by the vehicle that did not roll.

        (Asian woman in an Accord blew out of a parking lot without slowing or even looking and T-boned a Cherokee at maybe 30 mph, knocking him off the road into the ditch in the median.)

      • 6 Years Ago
      "No, it wouldn't cost automakers anything. It would cost new car buyers $1.1 billion."

      I wonder if they are also taking the needs of rescue crews into account - especially if a new 3.5x standard will require new rescue equipment to cut the roof off in an emergency...
      • 6 Years Ago
      How many times vehicle weight will convertibles have to withstand?
      • 6 Years Ago
      why make the Wrangler exempt? I imagine it probably could support easily twice it's weight (having seen a lot of fellow Jeep's inverted in a 4- G negative, and just rolling them back over to continue down the trail...)

      I agree with other posts, though, that 3-5 times is excessive. Maybe 2, or 2.5 would be reasonable, with a target date of 2020, so that cars can be re-engineered in the long term.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You would all change your tune if you we're in a lightweight Chinese car, I mean damn that's the only thing that matters to you all, it has to be light! So when they start making the A-D pillars out of bamboo sticks and you're crushed in a parking lot by a Tahoe you'll wish you had an overweight ass Volvo XC90 to protect you.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually, there is a bike maunfacturer making bamboo bikes with stability similar to carbon fiber. In the mid-term, that may not be a bad thing to have...

        but even in a current Chevy Malibu, if you get landed on by a Tahoe, you're dead. Remember, the roof is designed for 1.5 times the vehicles weight, with the goal being to protect you from yourself (i.e. a roll-over).
          • 6 Years Ago
          The roof in the XC90(and all other new Volvo's), and Xtera(?) can handle much more weight than 1.5x, that's just the minimum, there a lot of SUV's and cars that can handle more than 1.5x of their weight on the roof.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Simmer down. The xc90 can support 3.5 times its weight... And that's with excellent visibility -- not to mention not being overly top heavy (compare to: 4runner, explorer, etc). Volvos use boron steel in the roof structure. Not sure what other manufacturers use it as well. On a more interesting note, when the xc90 was first released, volvo was making claims regarding its roof strength; however, ford quickly stopped them because the explorer's roof strength was hugely inferior.

      For my 3.5 times figures, see:
      http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/car-safety/car-safety-reviews/roofcrush-standards-1005/overview/

        • 6 Years Ago
        I can't afford an XC90. And if I could, I wouldn't spend that much on my car anyways.

        Why should my compact car need boron steel in the roof? If I get hard enough by something that will cause me to roll, I'd rather have that steel in between me and the incoming object.

        If we're talking about self-induced rolling, the chances are pretty low, because I drive a car, and it has a normal ride height.
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