Tougher IIHS Crash Test Could Mean Fewer Top Safety Picks
A new crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will likely reduce the number of coveted Top Safety Picks, and Automotive News reports at least two automakers have voiced concern.
On Tuesday IIHS will release the first round of results, which includes luxury sedans like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Institute's frontal overlap tests simulate a 40-mph frontal collision with an offset barrier, something that experts say better simulates a real-world collision with another car as the driver tries to steer clear. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's frontal tests, by contrast, use a solid barrier that isn't offset.
What's new for IIHS is where the offset occurs. The institute's latest test will simulate just 25% of the barrier overlapping the front of the car, as opposed to the current 40%. IIHS President Adrian Lund told Automotive News that one-quarter of the 10,000 fatal front accidents that happen each year occur because of the decreased overlap, as a car's wheels — not the energy-absorbing portion of the crumple zone, which is closer to the center — take the impact.
A record 115 cars for 2012 earned IIHS' coveted safety award, so expect the number to drop. Some automakers have demurred. Mercedes-Benz told Automotive News the test creates an "unusually severe and correspondingly uncommon accident scenario." Honda says it will design cars to meet the new tests but warned that the design updates could affect the ride, handling and gas mileage. Stay tuned to see how they — and others — fare.