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NIIHS Announces Safety Winners

The National Insurance Institute of Highway Safety announced its rankings of the ten safest 2006 model year cars on Sunday December 4, 2005. To make the ratings game easier to understand, NIIHS has developed a gold silver rating scheme. Cars receiving a GOLD rating have “Good” ratings for frontal impact, side impact and head restraints. Cars receiving a SILVER rating have “Good” ratings for frontal impact and side impacts, “Acceptable” for head restraints.
One of the key objectives for this new combined rating scheme is to push manufacturers in a subtle way towards stronger performances in all aspects of the rating game.
The winners are:

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Large Cars: Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego
Mid-Size Cars: Saab 9-3, Subaru Legacy
Small Car: Honda Civic 4-door
Large Cars: Audi A6
Mid-Size Cars: Audi A3, Audi A4, Chevrolet Malibu with side airbags, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Passat

NIIHS tested only a small part of the product offerings available for 2006. They tested 3 large cars, 24 mid-size cars and 16 small cars out of the more than 250 nameplates on the market (including cars and trucks). This begs the question of how perennial safety winners like Volvo, Saab, Mercedes and BMW would have fared. You assume they would have done just fine, but if they were at risk of scoring even one acceptable rating, then their reputation would have be damaged. Not being in the race, they can gives them the ability to contend that NIIHS did not rate them (for whatever reason… already knew the cars were great, so didn’t need to test them?)

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In a rare serious radio interview by Dick Purtan heard in Detroit Sue Cischke Vice President of Environmental and Safety and Engineering gushed about how ecstatic Ford was for the Five Hundred and Montego to have won the Gold awards for Large Cars. She also attributed much of the success of the cars to Volvo engineering that contributed the basic platform for the new domestic Ford/Mercury. This begs the question even more… where were the Volvos?


  • Clive Bengtsson| December 10, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    Volvo Responds to NHTSA ande IIHS Results: “Real World” Safety Research vs. One Crash Test

    Volvo Vehicles are Designed for the Decathlon, Not the 100m Dash

    IRVINE, Calif., Dec. 9 — Real World safety is Volvo’s highest priority. It’s a dedication we have demonstrated time and again through the application of industry-leading expertise and modern facilities to enhance safety and pioneer our new safety systems. Designing vehicles with Real World safety is Volvo’s methodology and priority. Excelling in one particular nation’s governmental or third party tests is not.

    In third-party tests, such as the recent American IIHS Top Safety Pick Awards, or the NHTSA Crash Tests, vehicles are ranked based on the performance of front, side, and rear crashes. These rankings are based on results from one test vehicle, at one impact speed, and one angle of impact. While any form of testing can be a positive step, safety is a MUCH more complex subject than just one single crash test.

    Volvo builds vehicles with safety systems developed from data contained in an Accident Research Database that dates back to the early 1970s. This database contains the intricate details of more than 35,000 collisions involving Volvo vehicles with more than 50,000 occupants.

    Rest assured that this information is used to design our vehicles with safety systems to meet or exceed world class requirements. More importantly, it enables us to build vehicles that help protect occupants in many Real World situations, not just one specific crash.

    Consider, for a moment, the following analogy for Volvo’s holistic approach to safety:

    A decathlon athlete must perform well in different 10 events to win first prize. While that means they are not “world class” in one particular category, it also means they are the BEST all-around athlete.

    That is how Volvo views the field of safety. While each government and third party test will only address one type of impact, at one speed, in one event, Volvo considers the consequences of real world factors.

    For example, if a vehicle is hit from the side, then pushed into a ditch, how well will it protect the occupants? Or how will a vehicle fair in a side impact followed by a rear collision? The vehicle should be able to help protect occupants in many different situations, not just one test into one barrier.

    This holistic commitment has led Volvo to equip its vehicles with an extensive list of standard safety features:

    • IC (Inflatable Curtain) to help protect the head of all outboard occupants.

    • IC was a World first for Volvo in 1998.

    • Pyrotechnic pretension seat belts.

    • SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) body structure with extra reinforcement in the doors, door pillars and dashboard to improve protection in a side collision.

    • SIPS was a world first for Volvo in 1995.

    • SIPS air bag for front row occupants.

    • Volvo’s research indicates that SIPS and the SIPS air bag help reduce injuries by approximately 57%.

    • Adaptive driver and front passenger airbags that monitor the force of the impact and help adapt inflation to the severity of the collision.

    • WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System).

    • Volvo’s research and independent studies performed by IIHS and the Swedish Insurance Company Folksam show that WHIPS helps to reduce injuries by up to 50%.

    • ABS/EBD (Antilock Braking System/Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) regulates the brake force to assist the driver in maintaining control of the vehicle under emergency braking.

    • RSC (Roll Stability Control) is designed to assist the driver in maintaining control during an extreme manoeuvre could lead to a roll-over incident.

    • RSC was a world first for Volvo in 2002.

    Volvo will continue to innovate and be one of the safest cars, based on decades of innovation and ongoing technological leadership. If you require additional information about safety, please contact your local Volvo Representative.

    Clive Bengtsson,
    Volvo Crash Tester

  • car dudette| December 8, 2005 at 6:58 pm

    Seems like Volvo screwed the pooch by not being in this first NIIHS rating. Or didn’t the vaunted Volvo brand make the cut?

  • karxprt| December 7, 2005 at 2:40 pm

    Well, it looks like Ford’s use of the Volvo S80 platform has paid off for their big cars. The IIHS ratings have been getting a lot of play, but shouldn’t they also report on the mid-pack and low ranking products.
    Folks should be told which cars to avoid because they are less capable of withstanding crashes.
    Now, when are they going to start measuring active safety like handling, maneuverability, braking, acceleration… the other important stuff. You don’t want a car that will just absorb a crash, you want one that will avoid the crash.

  • Jacques vonMolendorff| December 7, 2005 at 7:11 am

    Great to see that VW and Audi is doing well on these ratings, I have been indecisive over a few brands to consider as a new car and this makes that decision so much easier.
    Disappointing to see that the list does not include more local brands.

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