The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced today that 2012 model year vehicles set a record for the number of highly valued Top Safety Pick awards earned: 115 total winners with 18 of those being brand new recipients.

The break down includes 69 cars, 38 SUVs, five minivans and three pickups, so if owning a Top Safety Pick award-winning vehicle is important to you, there are options available in every category.

As for which automakers earned the most awards, Toyota and its band of merry brands, which includes Lexus and Scion, racked up 15, while GM was next with 14, VW/Audi with 13, and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura both with 12 awards each. Speaking of Honda and Acura, they win the award for most improved, as 10 of the 18 new models to receive the award come from their lineups. No automaker, however, was able to match Subaru's repeat performance of earning a Top Safety Pick award for every vehicle in its lineup.

The IIHS notes that automakers have come a long way since it began giving out Top Safety Pick awards back in 2005. At that time, only 11 models qualified. In fact, last year only 66 vehicles qualified because of less-than-stellar rollover ratings, but automakers apparently responded, addressing the issue in new models or redesigning roofs throughout the year.

The IIHS Top Safety Pick award stands as the private sector's counterpart to the government's own five-star rating system for vehicle safety conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Both litmus tests for safety have grown increasingly difficult for automakers to ace in recent years, but today's announcement shows that they're clearly up to the task.
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115 winners of 2012 Top Safety Pick
Stronger roofs lead to another record year for award

ARLINGTON, VA - The list of winners of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick award is longer than ever this year, with vehicles in nearly every size category the Institute evaluates earning accolades. From minicars to sedans to pickups, consumers have a record number of choices among 2012 models.

In all, 69 cars, 38 SUVs, 5 minivans, and 3 pickups earn Top Safety Pick. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations. The ratings, which cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes, help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection. Because the federal government now requires all 2012 and later passenger vehicles to have electronic stability control to help drivers avoid loss-of-control crashes, ESC no longer is a requirement to win as it was in prior years.

The winners' circle includes 18 new recipients for 2012, while 97 models that previously qualified for the 2011 award carry over to 2012.

"For the second year running a record number of models qualify," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "It's tough to win, and we commend auto manufacturers for making safety a top priority."

That commitment to protecting people in crashes is evident in the fast pace of design improvements automakers have made during the past year. Initially 66 vehicles qualified for last year's award as less-than-perfect rollover ratings held back many contenders. Later the number climbed to 100 as manufacturers redesigned roofs to make them stronger or introduced new models to win. The Institute's rolling test schedule allows for recognition of additional winners throughout the year, so many 2012 models qualified for a 2011 Top Safety Pick.

Again this year every major automaker has at least one winner. Subaru remains the only manufacturer with the distinction of earning awards for every model it builds. Subaru picks up 5 awards, including one for the redesigned Impreza, a small car.

Toyota/Lexus/Scion has 15 winners for 2012, more than any other auto manufacturer. General Motors is next in line with 14, followed by Volkswagen/Audi with 13, and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura with 12 awards apiece.

Honda improves: Ten of the 18 new additions are Honda/Acura models, including the midsize Accord sedan, which hasn't earned Top Safety Pick since the Institute toughened criteria to win the 2010 award by adding a test to assess roof strength in a rollover crash.

Vehicles rated good for rollover 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. A new federal standard for roof strength will phase in beginning with 2013 models.

Roofs on the 2009 Honda CR-V and 2010 Pilot scored marginal ratings in prior Institute tests, while earlier models of the Accord, CR-Z, Fit, and Insight rated acceptable. Now all of these 2012 models earn good ratings and Top Safety Pick.

"Honda/Acura deserves credit for most-improved status," Lund says. "The automaker buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection. Now, the automaker has winners in the minicar, small car, midsize car, small SUV, midsize SUV, minivan, and large pickup categories."

Another midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry, earns its first-ever Top Safety Pick. Last year, the Camry missed the mark because of a marginal rating for seat/head restraints. The Toyota Yaris also earns its first Top Safety Pick award. Toyota upgraded the roof and seat/head restraints of the 4-door hatchback model to win. Good ratings secure the Yaris a spot alongside 3 other minicars, the Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, and Honda Fit, as 2012 winners.

"It's great to see the Accord and Camry, 2 of the top-selling midsize cars in the U.S. market, join the Top Safety Pick ranks this year," Lund says. "The Accord previously won the 2009 award but has been missing from the list since then."

With fuel efficiency and reduced emissions on many buyers' wish lists, the winners' circle includes more green choices. Toyota's all-new Prius v is among them. Roomier than the original, the v hybrid brings to 15 the number of winners available as hybrids. The plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, winners in 2011, also earn this year's award.

For drivers who need to haul loads, the Ford F-150, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tundra are good choices in the large pickup category. Small pickups continue to be shut out. None the Institute has evaluated qualify for the award.

"When we launched Top Safety Pick in 2005, consumers had 11 models to pick from. Six years later, finding a winner that fits most budgets and lifestyles is easy," Lund says. "It's a testament to the commitment automakers have made to going above and beyond minimum safety standards."

About the award: 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 ESC as either standard or optional equipment. In 2010, the Institute toughened criteria 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 Institute groups 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 2-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 115 WINNERS (bold indicates newly-announced winners for 2012)

Fiat 500 built after July 2011
Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback
Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris 4-door hatchback

Small cars
Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet Sonic
Chevrolet Volt
Ford Focus
Honda Civic 4-door
Honda CR-Z
Honda Insight

Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul
Lexus CT 200h
Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback
Mini Cooper Countryman
Mitsubishi Lancer except Ralliart and Evolution
Nissan Cube
Nissan Juke
Nissan Leaf
Scion tC
Scion xB
Scion xD
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Golf 4-door
Volkswagen GTI 4-door

Midsize moderately priced cars
Audi A3
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200 4-door
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Toyota Camry
Toyota Prius v

Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Volkswagen Passat
Volvo C30

Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
Acura TL built after September 2011
Acura TSX sedan and hatchback

Audi A4
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes C-Class
Volkswagen CC except 4-wheel drive
Volvo S60

Large family cars
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Regal
Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger
Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon

Large luxury cars
Audi A6
BMW 5 series except 4-wheel drive and V8
Cadillac CTS sedan
Hyundai Equus
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti M37/M56 except M56x 4-wheel drive
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E-Class sedan
Mercedes E-Class coupe
Saab 9-5
Volvo S80

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Kia Sportage
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Midsize SUVs
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Durango
Dodge Journey
Ford Edge
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
GMC Terrain
Honda Pilot

Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Venza

Midsize luxury SUVs
Acura MDX
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Infiniti EX35
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes GLK
Mercedes M-Class
Saab 9-4X
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Large SUVs
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Volkswagen Touareg

Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna
Volkswagen Routan

Large pickups
Ford F-150 crew cab models
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra crew cab models

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I for one think upping the criteria would be a great idea and it's the next logical step now that so many cars are passing the tests (though if you look at the injury measurements, some that pass do better than others that pass). What I'd love to see IIHS do is: 1) In addition to the 40MPH frontal offset crash test (which I believe due to the deformable barrier simulates a 35MPH crash between two cars of similar weight), have a 55-60MPH frontal offset crash test. Having both is important I think -- otherwise you run the risk of having manufacturers making cars safer at 55-60MPH (very common speeds) but less safe at lower speed crashes. 2) Either add another side-impact crash test or make the current one more intense. Currently the test involves striking the side of the vehicle with a 3300 pound barrier traveling at 31MPH. Most SUVs and many cars weigh at least 4000 pounds. Increase the weight of the barrier to at least 4000 pounds if not more, and maybe even increase its traveling speed as well. 3) Put dummies in the rear seat in addition to the front seat and rate the car's performance in protecting rear passengers in frontal crashes. As it stands, neither IIHS, NHTSA, or EuroNCAP do this (except for side impact crashes), and I think it's about time they did. Rear seat occupants are important too. I read an article earlier this year that IIHS is looking into adding a completely new crash test -- it'll be interesting to see how that turns out. Kudos to IIHS though -- they've been extremely influential in making cars safer and making it super easy to see which cars perform the best in their tests. I commend them for that.
      • 3 Years Ago
      darth vader
      • 3 Years Ago
      it's pretty amazing that subaru is, again, the only automaker with all models being top safety picks. All other car companies should strive to make their vehicles as safe as Subarus. (note: this isn't taking away from any of the other top safety picks, but for cheaper vehicles in an automakers lineup, safety should be a top priority, or at least in the top 3; the other two being handling and powerslide-ability)
      Ryan Anderson
      • 3 Years Ago
      When are the standards going to become more stringent???
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ryan Anderson
        I dunno why this guy is getting downvoted. A couple too many question marks but other than that I wonder and hope for the same thing (tougher tests equals safer cars, safer cars equals less likely to die or be seriously injured in an accident).
          • 3 Years Ago
          He got downrated because the IIHS has adopted more stringent standards several different times in the last few years. The reason there are so many vehicles getting the top safety pick is because manufacturers are going out of their way to improve their vehicles. Some are even revising roof strength DURING a model year, while the vehicle is being manufactured.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ryan Anderson
      • 3 Years Ago
      So, BMW 3 series and X5 are not on the list. Also, they put 5 Series in the list of Luxury cars by mistake.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The only mistake is your comment. Check their ******* website.
      Ryan Anderson
      • 3 Years Ago
      When are the standards going to become more stringent???
      • 3 Years Ago
      i am surprised by the lack on nissans on the list. no versa, sentra, altima or maxima. granted this list is top safety picks just because a car gets an "average" in a score does not mean it is unsafe.
        • 3 Years Ago
        To recieve the TSP award, a vehicle must achieve the highest possible ratings in every test the IIHS puts it through. The vehicles you mentioned don't make the cut because there are vehicles safer. *rolleyes*
      • 3 Years Ago
      UM, AUTOBLOG? We don't cite users' tips now?! I kinda ******* sent this to you DBAGS
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