The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed a new frontal crash test, and the majority of midsize luxury cars have received poor marks.
The test creates a simulation of what occurs when an automobile strikes another car or a stationary object such as a tree. The test uses a five-foot barrier, striking 25 percent of the automobile’s front end against it, at a speed of 40 miles per hour.
Unfortunately, most luxury models from the 2012 model year failed the test. The Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, and Lexus luxury models all received poor ratings. Four other automobiles received a marginal rating: the Lincoln MKZ, Acura TSX, Volkswagen CC and the BMW 3 series.
The poor scores indicate that these models would not protect occupants very well in a real-world collision. Only three of the 11 cars tested earned a rating of good or acceptable: the Infiniti G, Acura TL and Volvo S60.
The Institute, which receives its funding from insurance companies, issues safety ratings for automobiles that are closely watched by the industry, frequently leading to design and safety changes. Automobile manufacturers often highlight good scores in their advertisements for new models.
The poor scores overall for luxury models may be a sign of things to come for the non-luxury models, which are slated next to undergo the new test.
The Institute cited several specific problems that led to poor ratings on the luxury vehicles. One problem is that side air bags, which are designed to protect occupants in a side-impact, T-bone type crash, may not inflate fast enough in the case of a frontal impact. Three models, the Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW, had problems with their seat belts. After an impact, the belts spooled out too much, causing high-velocity impacts for the crash-test dummies used in the tests. The Volkswagen had a door sheared completely off.
Mercedes responded to the test by saying that the company’s C-Class has been rated by the Institute as one of the safest models. Mercedes further noted that the test conducted by the Institute was for an uncommon, particularly severe accident. Mercedes said that the company was a leader in automotive safety, and that the C-Class would protect occupants during a crash.
Toyota, owner of the Lexus brand, said that the company accepted the test results and that it would incorporate the data into safety advancements for new vehicles. Toyota also pointed out that the Institute had chosen 17 of its models as top safety choices, more than any other car manufacturer.
The Institute said the test was based on real-world frontal crashes, which result in more than 10,000 deaths each year in the United States.