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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Safest Convertibles Not Necessarily Most Expensive

New Tests Reveal Several Affordable Convertibles With High Crash Protection Marks

When buying a new convertible, more expensive does not always mean safer. Recently released test scores by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety discovered several affordable convertibles that offer better crash protection than more expensive models.

The Institute, conducting tests on 10 new mid-size convertibles for the first time, gave top scores to two expensive convertibles - the 2007 Saab 9-3 and 2007 Volvo C70. Both cars, whose price starts at nearly $40,000, earned the highest scores on front, side-impact and rear crash protection tests.

"The performances of the 9-3 and C70 are impressive," said the Institute's president, Adrian Lund. "These cars combine what convertible buyers should look for if they're shopping with safety in mind."

According to J.D. Power and Associates, convertibles, an indulgent second car for many owners, comprise a small part of the new car market, or about 2 percent of vehicle sales.

Three convertibles, all starting under $30,000 - the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, 2007 Volkswagen Eos, and 2008 Chrysler Sebring - earned the highest marks in front and side-impact crash testing.

Meanwhile, the 2007 BMW 3 Series and the 2007 Audi A4 Cabriolet, received the Institute's second-lowest score of marginal in side-impact tests. The BMW convertible starts at $43,200, while the A4 model starts at $39,100. Both earned the highest ratings in frontal tests.

For example, during its side test of the 3 Series, the Institute observed injuries on the driver dummy that could indicate rib fractures and injuries to internal organs in a real-life crash.

BMW AG spokesman Thomas Plucinsky said the automaker was disappointed with the side-impact results but that it engineers its vehicles to pass a wide range of crash tests around the globe.

"We're confident that in real world situations that BMW vehicles are among the safest in side-impact," he said.

Audi AG spokesman Patrick Hespen said the A4's vehicle platform was introduced in late 2002, before the Institute's testing procedures were implemented. He said the vehicle "provides a high level of crash protection."

The 2007 Pontiac G6, which starts at $29,400, earned scores of marginal in side-impact crash tests and the second-highest score of acceptable in frontal tests.

According to the Institute, the G6's front compartment fared well during the front-end tests, but the driver's seat came ajar on one of its tracks and slid forward, causing the dummy's head to strike the instrument panel.

General Motors Corp. spokesman Alan Adler acknowledged that there was some movement of the front seat, but "the seat remained in place and provided good protection to the crash test dummy in the driver's seat." On the side-impact test, he said General Motors is moving to equip all passenger cars with head protection by 2009.

Other vehicles tested include the 2007 Toyota Camry Solara, which earned the highest rating in frontal testing and the second-highest mark in side evaluation. The Ford Mustang, meanwhile, earned second-highest marks in front-end testing and the highest marks in side-impact.

According to Lund, consumers should look for roll bars, which help reduce the risk if the convertible flips over. Pop-up roll bars, which automatically deploy if sensors detect a potential rollover, are standard equipment on the 9-3, C70, Eos, 3 Series and A4, but are not available on other vehicles tested.

The National Safety Commission recommends The Driver Education Handbook for Parents as a valuable teaching tool for parents who are concerned with their teen's driving safety and understand the value of quality instruction.

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The National Safety Commission, Inc.
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Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32004-3359

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