Only 2 cars get 5 stars in tougher crash tests

By Reuters
Posted Oct. 5, 2010 at 2:03 p.m.

Three new models crucial to U.S. automakers received four-star ratings in U.S. government crash-safety tests that were toughened in response to concerns voiced by safety and consumer groups.

But the latest version of the Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in North America, earned an average three stars and was outperformed by virtually every other vehicle in a first analysis of fifty-five 2011 models conducted by the Transportation Department.

Just two the Hyundai Sonata and the BMW 5-Series sedans, received the highest mark — five stars.

The tests, whose results were released Tuesday, used a reworked rating system that measures front, side and rollover crash protection for 2011 vehicles. More results are due in coming months.

General Motors’ Chevrolet Malibu sedan, which accounted for 162,000 sales in 2009, received good ratings for front crash protection and excellent in the side test. The Malibu’s rollover ratings were also good, but that rating is more telling for sport-utilities and pickups with their higher center of gravity.

Ford’s Fiesta subcompact matched Malibu in the safety tests. Ford is placing a large bet on the vehicle, whose early sales are promising.

Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee four-wheel-drive SUV, a redesigned vehicle that is the first model to be reintroduced since the automaker’s bankruptcy in 2009, also equaled Malibu and Fiesta. A rear-wheel version scored only average marks for rollover.

Crash test data can affect sales, and automakers will quickly tout any vehicles that receive good or high marks. Vehicle safety has received more public scrutiny this year with Toyota’s huge recalls over unintended acceleration claims.


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