• Dec 21st 2010 at 7:23PM
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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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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      "ALL 66 WINNERS (red indicates new winners for 2011)"

      fail. I want to see the new winners for 2011.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Jeremy's joke about driving and women:
      If u r a woman then please dont watch this video!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Help me out here, This list compared to the Safercar.gov website just doesn't jive. Why is the Honda Accord currently the only vehicle to earn five stars in crash safety in all but two tests and achieve an overall five star but not make the list. Why would the Toyota Sienna make the grade even with a three star crash rating for frontal collision? The new safety ratings compare crashes between body types. Why would vehicles that maintain a 2 star crash test dependant on phisique be found on this list?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Because the important thing to remember here - and this is key - is that the IIHS is an independent INSURANCE AGENCY funded organization. Safercar.gov is run by NHSTA, which is a FEDERAL organization under USDOT.

        Now, you can argue over who has the most reason to fake results.... IIHS might want to have more expensive-to-insure cars seem safer (to increase premium's revenue).. or NHSTA might want to change results based on whatever administration is in the house and how they're feeling about autos... (Pro-oil Pres might want to have big cars do better, Pro regulation might want higher MPG cars to do better, etc)

        But the bottom line is each test uses different methodology, so you can't even come come close to comparing them.

        I can tell you this though: I work on the marketing side of the auto industry, and the only thing that REALLY concerns them is NHSTA Stars. IIHS is a nice bragging right, but in the grand scheme, its all about USDOT.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Where is Nissan Maxima?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope people realize that the IIHS results have more to do with when a new model was introduced rather than how good a manufacurer is at designing vehicles.

      Almost all the 'Top Safety Picks' are recently released models, so rather than be a fanboy of a particular brand - just buy the newest models available.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Congrats to the winners.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Since when does the Touareg qualify as a large SUV?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Actually if you include Volvo because Ford owned them, and they were developed under Fords ownership, Ford would have had about 12 in total. Quite impressive, but if so many were able to receive this award, then IIHS needs to upgrade it's tests, and usher in a new generation of safety regulations.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm pretty sure the reason why Ford vehicles became so safe was because they leveraged the access they had to Volvo stuff and not the other way around, so it'd be kinda questionable to count the Volvo cars as Ford achievements. I mean the current Taurus that people love so much rides around on a less costly to build version of the last-gen S80 platform.
        • 4 Years Ago
        wasn't Volve bought by a Chinese company not too long ago?
        • 4 Years Ago
        OH crap on the safety nanny that bore you. If you had your way they'd be computer controlled so you could text your heart out.
        In your mind there is no safe car so just keep raising the bar.

        It leads to more and more crap on cars that make them heavier.

        The solution is make it more difficult (raise the bar, neh?) to get a friggin' license in the first place....TEACH the morons how to drive!

        50% of the people are below average...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hyundai/Kia again great job! And great job to ford with continuing to make great products and improving their fleet!
        • 4 Years Ago
        And VW/Audi has 1 less brand in the IIHS test and GM has 1 more brand in the IIHS test...
        • 4 Years Ago
        It took Toyota/Lexus/Scion three whole brands to get beat by 1 car with Kia/Hyundai
      • 4 Years Ago
      What's the pass rate for the average driver?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good job Chrysler! 5 cars. Probably would be 6 if they counted the new Durango!
        • 4 Years Ago
        When they do the pickups it will probably be 7 for Mopar. Remember they did extremely well in the new roof crush test a while back, even besting a lot of the Japanese makes.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is a domestic marvel, capable of showing up higher-priced Euro-sedans that have traditionally dominated this class.
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