from the New York Times;
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has again made it more difficult to earn its Top Safety Pick Plus and Top Safety Pick awards by tightening its criteria for the third time since the 2006 model year. The move is likely to dismay automakers because they will suddenly have far fewer vehicles they can promote as worthy of the institute’s plaudits.
As a result of the changes, 22 vehicles earned the highest award of Top Safety Pick Plus and 17 earned the lesser Top Safety Pick award in this initial announcement of 2014 winners, compared with 13 Top Safety Pick Plus awards and 117 Top Safety Pick selections last year.
The I.I.H.S., which is financed by the insurance industry, continues to add to the list throughout the year as new models are introduced and more are tested. It made the changes to its rating system to reflect two of its newer tests.
One is the small-overlap front test introduced in 2012, which replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or with a stationary object like a tree or utility pole. The other test, initiated this year, is a rating of frontal crash prevention technology in the form of warning systems and automatic braking intended to help avoid rear-end collisions.
The new ratings were added to the institute’s tests for side, rollover, rear and moderate-overlap front crashes. Vehicles are rated on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor.
The insurance institute fully incorporated the small-overlap test into its basic Top Safety Pick rating this year. Previously, a vehicle could be on the Top Safety Pick list no matter how it performed in the small-overlap test. That meant as long as a vehicle received a Good rating in the four other tests, it could receive a Marginal or Poor rating in the small overlap test. For 2014, vehicles had to receive a Good or Acceptable rating in small overlap to make the Top Safety Pick list, even if they scored Good on all of the other tests.
To receive the highest distinction of Top Safety Pick Plus, a vehicle must also receive at least a basic rating for frontal crash prevention technology. The institute did this to recognize a technology that it says has been proved to reduce crashes.
But there were a couple of cautions from the institute. It said that all of the vehicles designated Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus for 2013 still offered high levels of protection in the four main types of crashes: moderate-overlap front, side, rollover and rear. Some of those no longer on the list either have less than Acceptable ratings for small-overlap protection or haven’t been tested.
This year’s Top Safety Pick Plus list includes the Acura MDX and RLX; the Ford Fusion; the two-door and four-door Honda Accord, Civic Hybrid and Odyssey; the Infiniti Q50; the Lincoln MKZ; the Mazda 3, Mazda 6 and CX-5; the Mercedes-Benz M-Class; the Mitsubishi Outlander; the Subaru Forester, Legacy and Outback; the Toyota Highlander and Prius; and the Volvo S60, S80 and XC60.
Recipients of the Top Safety Pick designation include the Acura TL; the Chevrolet Spark; the Chrysler 200; the Dodge Avenger and Dart; the Ford Focus; the two-door Honda Civic; the Hyundai Elantra; the Kia Optima; the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport; the Nissan Altima; the Scion tC; the Subaru Impreza and Crosstrek; the Toyota Camry; the Volkswagen Passat; and the Volvo XC90.