News

Half of small cars score badly on tougher crash tests

Half of small cars score badly on tougher crash tests

The auto industry continued its poor performance in an influential U.S. safety group's new crash test. Photo: Reuters

DETROIT (Reuters) – The auto industry continued its poor performance in an influential U.S. safety group’s new crash test as half of the small cars tested did not fare well.

Six of the cars tested, most of which were 2013 models, were rated “poor” or “marginal.” General Motors Co’s Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze each received marginal scores, while Kia Motors Corp’s Soul and 2014 Forte were rated “poor” in the results released on Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Nissan Motor Co’s Sentra also was rated “poor,” while Volkswagen AG’s Beetle was ranked “marginal.”

The IIHS increased the rigor of its tests last year to include crashes that involve only a front corner of a vehicle. The insurance group said nearly one-fourth of U.S. front-of-vehicle crashes that result in serious injury or death involve only a single corner that strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.

The IIHS continues to score vehicles on side, rear, rollover and front-end crashes that impact more than just a corner.

“This is a challenging new crash test and it’s not surprising that some vehicles are earning marginal and poor ratings,” IIHS spokesman Russ Radar said of the small overlap front crash test.

“This crash scenario doesn’t lend itself to a Band-Aid fix so for most manufacturers the countermeasure will have to be built in when there’s a full redesign,” he added.

STRUCTURAL CHANGES

Vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. market often design and engineer their models to score well on IIHS safety tests and use the results in their marketing.

“It matters because in today’s world cars are so competitive that all you need is a small flaw and your competition can exploit it,” Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said.

Most of the 12 small cars tested were already in production before the IIHS increased the rigor of its front crash test last year. However, Radar said IIHS alerted the companies to the work the group was doing on small overlap research in 2009.

The specifications of the test were not finalized until the last year, which is late in a car’s development process, Brauer said. All automakers will eventually redesign their cars to meet the standards to pass the new crash test, he said.

In the tests, IIHS crashes a vehicle at 40 mph into a 5-foot-high barrier on the driver’s side that overlaps one-quarter of the vehicle’s width.

Kia pointed out that the IIHS small overlap crash test goes well beyond federal requirements and the group has recognized numerous Kia vehicles as top safety picks. The South Korean automaker said it would evaluate the results carefully, but the company was proud of its safety record.

GM said customer safety remains its highest priority and it is committed to its cars performing well in all types of crashes.

“We are aggressively working to incorporate these into our models, including our small cars like the Chevrolet Sonic and Cruze, where technically feasible,” GM spokeswoman Sharon Basel said in an email.

Nissan and VW said they were proud of their cars’ safety records in federal crash tests and other IIHS crash tests, but they would review the small overlap test results and incorporate what is learned into future designs.

WORST CASES

In the worst cases with the small cars that did not score well, safety cages collapsed, driver airbags moved sideways and the crash dummy’s head hit the instrument panel, and side curtain airbags did not deploy or provide enough protection, IIHS chief research officer David Zuby said.

The small car segment was the fourth group of cars rated using this new test, and most of the groups have fared equally badly.

Last summer, seven of 11 luxury sedans evaluated rated “marginal” or “poor,” and 12 of 15 small SUVs tested also failed to score well in results released in May. Family sedans scored the best, with only five of 18 scoring “marginal” or “poor” in results released last December.

As a group, the small cars fared worse than the mid-sized family sedans, but better than the small SUVs, IIHS said. Results on the new crash test for minicars will be released later this year.

The other six small cars tested included two- and four-door versions of Honda Motor Co Ltd’s Civic, which both received “good” ratings. The Civic was tested earlier this year and the results were released in March.

Receiving “acceptable” ratings were Chrysler’s Dodge Dart, Ford Motor Co’s Focus, Hyundai Motor Co’s Elantra and Toyota Motor Corp’s 2014 Scion tC.

All the cars scoring well received “Top Safety Pick +” ratings by the insurance trade group. Vehicles earning the institute’s “Top Safety Pick +” award have received “good” ratings in the four traditional tests plus “good” or “acceptable” ratings in the small overlap test.

IIHS said it did not test the Toyota Corolla because the automaker plans to release a redesigned 2014 model this month.

Recent Headlines

59 minutes ago in Local Sports

Rangers rally for 2 in 9th to beat Mariners 3-2 

Fresh
Flags of some of the teams of the American League west division fly at Safeco Field during a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Seattle. Flags for the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers, and the Houston Astros, are shown.

The Texas Rangers scored two unearned runs in a two-out rally against Fernando Rodney, beating the Seattle Mariners 3-2

yesterday in Local Sports

Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks 

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice looks for the call against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz.

The Seattle Seahawks and wide receiver Sidney Rice have agreed to terms on a deal.

yesterday in Sports

Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson 

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) walks off the field before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.

In a text message to The Associated Press, Johnson confirmed it was a two-year deal.

yesterday in Local Sports

Date set for Koenen/Locker football camp

Updated
Photo Credit: KPUG Staff

There will be no "Friday Night Lights" game prior to the camp like last year. Koenen writes on Facebook, "We have a great event coming for everyone to be excited about to replace it."

yesterday in Local Sports

Guard Jaamon Echols enrolled spring quarter at WWU

Updated
Courtesy of WWU Athletics

Played in 20 games as freshman at NCAA D-1 Texas A&M Corpus Christi.