Tuesday, April 14, 2009

IIHS: Minicars Don't Fare Well Against Larger Autos

The New York Times reported that an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) report found that "consumers who buy minicars to economize on fuel are making a big tradeoff when it comes to safety in collisions." The "crash dummies in all three models tested - the Honda Fit, the Toyota Yaris and the Smart Fortwo - fared poorly in the collisions. By contrast, the midsize models into which they crashed fared well or acceptably."

The Wall Street Journal reports, "Many drivers are likely to be surprised by the damage done to smaller cars by midsize family vehicles like the Toyota Camry." According to the insurance group, "the poor results for small cars reflect basic physical principles concerning size and weight," in that larger cars "tend to absorb more crash energy and therefore transfer less to their passengers."

USA Today reports that IIHS "usually crashes cars into stationary barriers at 40 miles per hour." However, "barrier tests, in effect, show how a car holds up crashing into one like itself... . These tests show colliding with a larger car at the same effective speed as the barrier test." The three cars "got its top rating of 'good' in barrier tests," but their rating was "poor" in the new tests.

The Detroit News says, "Smart USA, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. all issued statements questioning the validity of the IIHS test. Toyota said of 6 million crashes in a year, just 2,600 had a closing speed of 80 mph or higher, a claim IIHS disputed." According to Smart USA President Dave Schembri, the IIHS test simulated a crash that was 'rare and extreme'." Similarly, "Honda said in a statement that the test represented 'unusual and extreme conditions'."

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