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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ford and Honda Top Safest Cars For 2008 List

Automakers Place Eight and Seven Vehicles on List, Respectively

Aided by the auto industry's thrust to make certain safety equipment more widely available, the number of new cars considered the safest by the insurance industry almost tripled in the past year.

On the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's annual list of the safest cars for the 2008 model year, Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. had the most vehicles. Thirty-four vehicles earned the top safety pick title for 2008, compared with only 13 vehicles from the 2007 model year.

To qualify for the award, new cars and trucks are required by the Institute to have electronic stability control, or ESC. The anti-rollover technology is being put into car companies' fleets ahead of a government requirement for the systems by the 2012 model year.

The Institute's president, Adrian Lund, said, "Vehicles should be designed to provide good occupant protection when crashes occur, but now with ESC we have the possibility of preventing many crashes altogether."

Studies show that that as many as 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided annually if all vehicles had the technology, Lund said.

Ford's models that made the list were the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable passenger cars with optional ESC, and the Ford Edge, Ford Taurus X and Lincoln MKX midsize sport utility vehicles. Also making the list were the Volvo S80, C70 midsize convertible and XC90 SUV, part of Ford's Volvo unit.

Ford had previously stated that by the end of 2009, it would put stability control on its entire lineup.

Placing seven vehicles on the list were Honda and its Acura unit: the Honda Accord, Odyssey, Pilot, CR-V and Element, and the Acura MDX and RDX SUVs. Since the 2007 model year, Honda has had stability control on all SUVs, pickups and minivans and the technology is now standard on the Accord.

To help keep a vehicle stable and avoid a rollover, electronic stability control senses when a driver may lose control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels. The technology aids drivers in avoiding skids on icy or slick roads or keeping control of their car when swerving to avoid an unanticipated object in the road.

Subaru and Hyundai Motor Co. each placed four vehicles on the list: the Subaru Legacy and Impreza with optional ESC, Subaru Tribeca and Forester with ESC; the Hyundai Entourage, and the Hyundai Santa Fe and Veracruz built after August 2007. Kia, a subsidiary of Hyundai, placed the Sedona minivan on the list.

For the first time this year, pickup trucks were eligible to win because the institute conducted side-impact tests on many models. The first pickup truck to receive the IIHS designation was the Toyota Tundra, which has standard stability control and side air bags.

Also on the list was the Highlander SUV by the Toyota Motor Co., and Volkswagen AG's Audi subsidiary placed the A3, A4 and A6 passenger cars.

According to the Institute, Toyota could have placed 10 more vehicles on the list and Volkswagen could have added four if they had improved seat and head restraint designs, which in rear-end crashes are important in protecting against whiplash injuries.

Bill Kwong, a Toyota spokesman, said its 2008 vehicles employ active headrests, which move closer to the backs of a motorist's head in rear-end crashes. Their active headrests provide a "great level of safety for the customer in the real world," Kwong commented.

Also making the list were the Saab 9-3, BMW X3 and X5, Mercedes M Class, and the Saturn Vue built after December 2007.

The awards help consumers compare vehicles without having to review results from multiple tests, the Institute said.

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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