The number of new cars considered the safest by the
U.S. insurance industry nearly tripled in the last year, helped by
automakers' push to make certain safety equipment more widely
Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. had the most vehicles on the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's annual list of the safest
cars for the 2008 model year. Thirty-four vehicles received the top
safety pick designation for 2008, compared with 13 vehicles from the
2007 model year.
The institute requires new cars and trucks have electronic
stability control, or ESC, to qualify for the award. Many auto
companies are putting the anti-rollover technology into their fleets
ahead of a U.S. government requirement for the systems by the 2012
``Vehicles should be designed to provide good occupant protection
when crashes occur but now with ESC we have the possibility of
preventing many crashes altogether,'' said Adrian Lund, the
Lund cited studies that have estimated as many as 10,000 fatal
crashes could be avoided annually if all vehicles had the
Ford was represented on the list by the Ford Taurus and Mercury
Sable passenger cars with optional ESC and the Ford Edge, Ford
Taurus X and Lincoln MKX midsize sport utility vehicles. The Volvo
S80, C70 midsize convertible and XC90 SUV, part of Ford's Volvo
unit, made the list.
Ford has said previously it will put stability control on its
entire lineup by the end of 2009.
Honda and its Acura unit had seven vehicles on the list: the
Honda Accord, Odyssey, Pilot, CR-V and Element and the Acura MDX and
RDX SUVs. Honda has had stability control on all SUVs, pickups and
minivans since the 2007 model year and the technology is now
standard on the Accord.
Electronic stability control senses when a driver may lose
control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to
individual wheels to help keep it stable and avoid a rollover. The
technology helps motorists avoid skidding across icy or slick roads
or keep control of their car when swerving to avoid an unexpected
object in the road.
Subaru and Hyundai Motor Co. both had four vehicles on the list:
the Subaru Legacy and Impreza with optional ESC, Subaru Tribeca and
Forester with ESC; the Hyundai Entourage, and the Hyundai Santa Fe
and Veracruz built after August 2007. Kia, a subsidiary of Hyundai,
had the Sedona minivan on the list.
Pickup trucks were eligible to win for the first time this year
because the institute conducted side-impact tests on many models.
The Toyota Tundra, which has standard stability control and side air
bags, was the first pickup truck to receive the IIHS designation.
Toyota Motor Co. also had the Highlander SUV on the list, while
Volkswagen AG's Audi subsidiary was represented by the A3, A4 and A6
The institute said Toyota could have had 10 more vehicles on the
list and Volkswagen could have added four if they had improved seat
and head restraint designs, important in protecting against whiplash
injuries in rear-end crashes.
Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong said its 2008 vehicles have active
headrests, which move closer to the backs of a motorist's head in
rear-end crashes. Kwong said it provides a ``great level of safety
for the customer in the real world.''
A message was left with a Volkswagen spokesman.
Other vehicles to make the list included: Saab 9-3, BMW X3 and
X5, Mercedes M Class and the Saturn Vue built after December 2007.
The institute said the awards help consumers compare vehicles
without having to review results from multiple tests.
On the Net:
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org