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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pickups, SUVs, and Vans All Fall Short of Safety Standards

US Insurance Industry Analysis Reveals Pickups Fare the Worst

According to a U.S. insurance industry analysis, sport utilities showed modest improvement in rear-crash protection, but over half the 87 light trucks tested fell short of acceptable safety standards, with pickups faring the worst.

The test results showed there was plenty of room for improvement, indicated David Zuby, vice president of vehicle research for the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"It's not a major feat of engineering to design seats and head restraints that afford good protection in these common crashes," Zuby said.

The group said neck injuries are the most common reported in auto crashes, accounting for two million insurance claims annually.

Safety experts said that to minimize the risk of whiplash, the head and torso must move together. Head restraints must be high enough and close to the back of the head, and seats should meet certain firmness standards.

Although overall results for 2004-07 models were mixed for the light truck class, Zuby said that concerning rear-crash safety, many foreign and domestic automakers are "moving in the right direction."

The institute's testing methods included measuring seat geometry and replicating crashes at 20 miles per hour using a dummy designed to measure neck forces. Performances earned ratings of poor, marginal, acceptable or good.

Seat/head restraint combinations in 17 of 59 SUV models were rated good, and five were acceptable in the latest evaluation. The other 37 were marginal or poor. In 2006, only six of 44 SUVs earned good ratings.

Three vans were rated good and two were found to be acceptable, which were roughly about half of those tested. In pickups, one model earned a 'good' score, while five were acceptable. The remaining 11 were deemed marginal or poor.

The redesigned 2007 Toyota Tundra was the only pickup that received a good rating. The 2006 Tundra received an acceptable mark. The improved rating in the 2007 version is a big lift for the vehicle that fell short in government tests to assess safety in head-on crashes.

The Tundra is Toyota's version of the popular, full size pickups manufactured by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group. The Tundra earned four stars in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal tests, while its U.S. rivals earned the highest mark of five stars. The NHTSA does not perform rear crash tests.

The insurance institute also indicated that that the CR-V sport utility made by Honda Motor Co. Ltd received a good rating this year, as compared to 2006’s poor score.

The Ford Edge crossover SUV, introduced in 2007 as a key vehicle in the company's turnaround strategy, earned a good rating in its first rear crash assessment.

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