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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You often see automakers advertising the safety of their products, or cultivating a long established perception of safety. And many who, like me, follow crash test scores, have come to expect all-around 5-star performance in NHTSA crash testing in any new car midsize or larger, as well as "Good" ratings from the IIHS.

But who actually has the best record of accomplishing this across the board? It certainly isn't the two brands that seem to be trying hardest to associate themselves with top safety: Volvo, with its long history of innovations, or Volkswagen, with its famous (infamous?) "Safe Happens" Passat and Jetta commercials. It's not any of the traditionally high-end brands either, further discrediting the adage of "you get what you pay for."

It's Acura and Subaru.

Until a few months ago, there were no cars on the market that achieved the highest possible rating in six safety evaluations from the two organizations: two frontal tests, two side tests, and rollover resistance and head restraint evaluations. Now there are two, both from Acura: the 2009 TSX and RL.

Until last year, no automaker had every one of its products on the IIHS's Top Safety Pick list. Now every Subaru qualifies, with its Impreza as the only small car to earn the designation and its Legacy as only one of two mainstream midsize sedans to qualify. And it's only one Impreza star away from also getting top NHTSA front and side crash test results on all of its products as well.

Are those really brands that would come first to your mind if asked the thread's title question? And if you answered no, as someone who cares enough about cars to visit a car forum, how likely is the average consumer to separate image from reality?

It's true, crash test results aren't a perfect way to see what cars are truly the safest in the real world. As with any standardized test -- automotive or otherwise -- the results can be skewed by design with the test results in mind. But on the flip side, it's certainly somewhat telling if an automaker isn't getting top scores in the standardized tests it knows its products will be subjected to. It seems to be telling that the highest-image automakers are the ones who know they don't have to bother with substance over image.

Here's the listing of how automakers have fared in earning top scores in the three IIHS evaluations and NHTSA's front and side crash tests. (As noted, only two cars get top scores in everything if the hard-to-master NHTSA rollover evaluation is included.) The fraction is the percentage of a brand's current (2008 or 2009, whatever's on sale now) products that got top scores, out of the total number that were subjected to all five tests or that got a less-than-perfect score in one test.

1. Acura: 4/5, 80%
2. Subaru: 3/4, 75%
3. Honda: 4/7, 57%
4. Audi: 1/2, 50%
5. Mercury: 2/5, 40%
5. Saturn: 2/5, 40%
7. Hyundai: 3/9, 33%
8. Buick: 1/3, 33%
9. Ford: 3/11, 27%
10. GMC: 1/4, 25%
10. Mercedes-Benz: 1/4, 25%
12. Mitsubishi: 1/6, 17%
13. Mazda: 1/7, 14%
14. Kia: 1/8, 13%
15. Chevrolet: 1/9, 11%
16. Toyota: 1/15, 7%
17. Hummer: 0/1, 0%
17. Mini: 0/1, 0%
17. smart: 0/1, 0%
20. BMW: 0/3, 0%
20. Saab: 0/3, 0%
20. Scion: 0/3, 0%
20. Volvo: 0/3, 0%
24. Cadillac: 0/4, 0%
24. Infiniti: 0/4, 0%
24. Suzuki: 0/4, 0%
27. Jeep: 0/5, 0%
27. Lincoln: 0/5, 0%
27. Volkswagen: 0/5, 0%
30. Chrysler: 0/6, 0%
30. Lexus: 0/6, 0%
30. Pontiac: 0/6, 0%
33. Dodge: 0/7, 0%
34. Nissan: 0/11, 0%


In a tie of percentage, the higher ranking went to the brand with the most number of cars that earned the top score. For the 0%s, the ranking is based on who had the most products fail to earn top scores.


While this method of examining brands' safety records is clearly imperfect, as it does not take into account whether a car missed top scores all around by an inch or a mile or safety systems irrelevant to crash performance, it can give a sense of the dedication of automakers to engineering their cars to the highest standard at the very least in areas that anyone with internet access can find out about.

You can also browse all current cars' IIHS and NHTSA scores at http://ifcar.net/vehicleinfo.safety.crashtests.htm.

Thoughts?
 

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I wonder how this guy fared...

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I wonder how this guy fared...
Well, the frontal crash tests from both organizations simulate a head-on collision with a vehicle of the exact same weight. So I'd guess he wouldn't fare too well at all in a crash test.
 

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^ lol, nice. I think the Topkick broke the 40 mph offset barrier! ;)

"Safe" is difficult to put a finger on. So a relatively small Acura TSX aces all the tests thrown at it by the NHTSA and IIHS, plus has many active safety features.

But in a head-on collision between the TSX and say an old F-350, I'd rather be in a 2002 F-350. "Safe" against barriers is one thing, but the rigid framed trucks that sit about a foot or more higher than the cars will win every time. One of my best friends once told me, "he with the most lug nuts wins". I laughed, but it's kind of true.

Having said that, kudos to Acura, Subaru, and all the manufacturers working so hard to get small cars "safe". It's not like everyday you're going to hit an F-350 (or Topkick)....but any increase for chance of survival is a good thing.
 

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Well, the frontal crash tests from both organizations simulate a head-on collision with a vehicle of the exact same weight. So I'd guess he wouldn't fare too well at all in a crash test.
But what are the odds of a 8,000+ lb behemoth finding something of equal size to crash into? :D
 

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I would have guessed Subaru, but not Acura.
 

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I've never guessed acura but the TSX (old) is a great car. And a w00t for subaru!!!
 

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Honda actually builds very safe cars when it comes to crashworthiness. They've had very good side impact EuroNCAP scores with the Civic 5-door, which at that time had a very long platform (not good) and no side-airbags!

That said, I wouldn't trust NHTSA results too much. For example, crashing into a concrete wall? Hello? Let's say you are unlucky, try to overtake a vehicle and another vehicle comes straight at you on another lane. What do you do? Seek a concrete wall to crash into rather than the vehicle, right? Don't forget NHTSA gave good marks to the Aveo, which generally got hopeless marks everywhere else in the civilized world.

Volkswagen does well in passive and active safety, Volvo does too but has long given up on being the leader. PSA (Peugeot and Citroen) and Renault are now fighting for the top spot.
 

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But what are the odds of a 8,000+ lb behemoth finding something of equal size to crash into? :D
How's a bridge abutment work?

I've never guessed acura but the TSX (old) is a great car. And a w00t for subaru!!!
Subaru.


Thoughts?

This is theory. Theory like MPGs are theory, compared to real world. Researched, yes, but it's all lab work.

Injury rates and kill rates will show the safest car.

But in my expert, humble opinion, the safest cars are those that attract the safest drivers: Buick Century, Buick LeSabre.







They're cancelled?

Oh well.:eek:
 

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Honestly, I wouldn't even include the NHTSA results because they're so at odds with the real world. People don't drive into concrete walls at a 90° angle, and that means that cars designed with real world situations in mind may actually fare worse in the NHTSA test.
 

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Haha, I just noticed Nissan was at the bottom of the list. But check this out Nissan has 11 models tested, and full-range-of-vehicles Chevrolet has only 9? That's crazy? I guess a lot of new models have to be tested?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Haha, I just noticed Nissan was at the bottom of the list. But check this out Nissan has 11 models tested, and full-range-of-vehicles Chevrolet has only 9? That's crazy? I guess a lot of new models have to be tested?
Chevrolet:
1. Aveo
2. Cobalt
3. Colorado
4. Equinox
5. Impala
6. Malibu
7. TrailBlazer
8. Traverse
9. Uplander

Nissan:
1. Altima
2. Armada
3. Frontier
4. Murano
5. Pathfinder
6. Quest
7. Rogue
8. Sentra
9. Titan
10. Versa
11. Xterra

A vehicle isn't counted if it doesn't get any imperfect scores in the crash-testing it does receive. That could be from not getting tested at all, or just not taking any test that it doesn't do well in. The IIHS hasn't tested any GM full-size pickups, SUVs, or vans, but they got only the best NHTSA scores, so they don't count against Chevrolet. (Same with the HHR.) They're theoretically on the way to earning top scores in every test, stuck in a limbo where they don't count for the list.

For what it's worth, Nissan also has two products3 like that, the 350Z and 2009 Maxima: top scores where they are tested, but lacking a full range of tests.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Honestly, I wouldn't even include the NHTSA results because they're so at odds with the real world. People don't drive into concrete walls at a 90° angle, and that means that cars designed with real world situations in mind may actually fare worse in the NHTSA test.
The NHTSA frontal test isn't designed to evaluate how well a car drives into a barrier. The agency describes the test as an evaluation of the vehicle's restraint system at keeping the occupants from getting injured in any sort of frontal crash. So, whether the airbag go off at the right time to prevent head injury and keep the occupants from decelerating too quickly, and whether the seatbelt keep the occupants in the right place to avoid hitting against things inside the car that they shouldn't.

I'm not sure how a restraint system that makes a car do well in the NHTSA test could be a real-world problem.
 

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The whole passive-safety system is a set of complex mechanisms, it is not simply an airbag you bang your head on. The type, speed and other parametres of the collision determine how the sensor are going to react, how the components of the car are going to absorb the impact, how the occupants bodies are going to be moving inside the vehicle, and finally, how the passive-safety systems are going to react.

Crashing into a non-deformable border at 100% of the vehicle's width is markedly different than most real-life situations. The force of impact is evenly distributed, and almost none of it absorbed by the barrier, while all impact recognition sensors are probably activated at the same time. There is no increased stress on the drivers' side, which is usual in frontal crashes, and this type of impact does not require a delay in deploying passenger airbags relative to the driver's.

Please also note that the forces on occupants' bodies are essentially quite different - every non-100% frontal impact is also a side impact of sorts, especially if the impacted subject is deformable. The vehicle does not move laterally as much, and the dynamics are much more predictable. There is much less rollover risk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The whole passive-safety system is a set of complex mechanisms, it is not simply an airbag you bang your head on. The type, speed and other parametres of the collision determine how the sensor are going to react, how the components of the car are going to absorb the impact, how the occupants bodies are going to be moving inside the vehicle, and finally, how the passive-safety systems are going to react.

Crashing into a non-deformable border at 100% of the vehicle's width is markedly different than most real-life situations. The force of impact is evenly distributed, and almost none of it absorbed by the barrier, while all impact recognition sensors are probably activated at the same time. There is no increased stress on the drivers' side, which is usual in frontal crashes, and this type of impact does not require a delay in deploying passenger airbags relative to the driver's.

Please also note that the forces on occupants' bodies are essentially quite different - every non-100% frontal impact is also a side impact of sorts, especially if the impacted subject is deformable. The vehicle does not move laterally as much, and the dynamics are much more predictable. There is much less rollover risk.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't give any indication that designing a car to perform well in that sort of impact puts it at a disadvantage in real-world situations. Dozens of cars get top scores in both the realistic-crash IIHS test and the head-on NHTSA test.
 

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But e.g. the Aveo got good NTHSA scores and awful EuroNCAP scores. I guess at the end of the day manufacturers design the vehicles for actual safety, and only make sure they would pass the particular tests. That said, if there is an incentive to go the easy way out for USDM vehicles, the worse for the American drivers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
But e.g. the Aveo got good NTHSA scores and awful EuroNCAP scores. I guess at the end of the day manufacturers design the vehicles for actual safety, and only make sure they would pass the particular tests. That said, if there is an incentive to go the easy way out for USDM vehicles, the worse for the American drivers.
The listing I created for the opening post of this thread is of cars that do well in NHTSA AND IIHS crash testing. If a car can earn top scores in both, it's not just being tailored to one test, is it? The Aveo didn't do well in IIHS testing.
 

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What about VW though? Were they tested by both organizations or not? Did they get less-than-perfect scores from the NHTSA or IIHS?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
What about VW though? Were they tested by both organizations or not? Did they get less-than-perfect scores from the NHTSA or IIHS?
The listing from the first post is only of cars that were tested and didn't get top scores.

The Jetta, Passat, and Rabbit got only 4 out of 5 stars is multiple NHTSA evaluations, and a low head restraint evaluation scores from IIHS. The New Beetle didn't do well in either organization's tests. The Tiguan got top IIHS scores, but NHTSA didn't test it, and the Touareg is the other way around.
 

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Well, I don't think it's a credible ranking then, if VWs are down on the list only because they didn't score well with NHTSA - unless you are shopping for a car to crash into a concrete wall, that is.
 
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