Car Safety: Hyundai and Toyota Drop the Ball


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) regularly ranks auto models of safety, using a series of crash tests. The primary criticism of the IIHS is that a very large number of cars and light trucks rated get the firm's "Top Safety Pick+" or "Top Safety Pick" designation, which means that there are hardly any unsafe cars at all. The IIHS habit makes it all the more shocking when a car misses a positive result in some of the trials. Hyundai and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) models fell into this category recently.

The tests involve front, side,and rear crash tests, as well as one for rollover.

The Toyota Camry and Prius posted "poor" scores for front impact. The Hyundai Sonata posted a "marginal" rating in the same test. The three models are among the best selling in the United States, which means hundreds of thousand of Americans have bought cars that are something short of safe. The news has to be an embarrassment for each manufacturer.

The test results are a particular problem for Toyota, which has had major recall problems. The Japanese company recently paid a record $17.35 million for delaying recalls of models with unintentional acceleration problems. Toyota has gained back some of the U.S. market share it lost after a series of recalls and the Japan earthquake that took much of its production offline. The IIHS data could undermine that by a small amount.

The data is also a blow to Hyundai, which the government recently caught "fudging" gas mileage numbers.

Many car buyers either do not read or do not pay attention to the IIHS data. Once again, this may be due to the huge percentage of cars that get high grades, which renders the data something less than entirely useful. That does not make the results any less shameful for Toyota and Hyundai

Note that the well-regarded Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, VW CC, Lexus ES 35, and Lexus IS 250/350 also received "poor" ratings on front collisions as well.

Douglas A. McIntyre

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Autos Tagged: featured, TM