August 14, 2012
New Crash Test Results Tests More Real World Scenarios
John Neumann for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Revised and more stringent crash test standards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety´s (IIHS) round of crash tests just got that much harder, with the agency saying it will spur automakers into improving protection of occupants during severe frontal crashes.
The latest test replicates a car striking another car or a fixed object like a tree or utility pole, known in the industry as a “small overlap crash,” with 25 percent of a car´s front end coming in contact with a five-foot rigid barrier at 40 miles per hour, AP reports. New car models however performed poorly in the test.
Insurance Institute crash test results are closely watched by the auto industry and often lead to changes in design or safety features, writes Viknesh Vijayenthiran for Motor Authority. Good scores are also frequently touted in car ads, however luxury models, which will be the next to undergo the new test may not have the desired results.
The IIHS tested some of the most popular luxury and near-luxury cars as these models typically get advanced safety features sooner than other vehicles. Unfortunately, only three out of the 11 cars tested earned good or acceptable ratings in the new test.
Most modern cars have safety structures built to withstand head-on collisions and most do a very good job, however these structures are typically designed for the middle 50 percent of a vehicle´s front and not the outer edges which aren´t so well protected and thus allow crash forces to go directly into the cabin.
Of the 11 cars tested, only the Acura TL, Volvo S60 and Infiniti G earned good or acceptable ratings from the institute, which is funded by insurers. Marginal or poor ratings, indicates the cars wouldn´t protect occupants very well in a real-world crash.
Marginal ratings were given to four cars, the Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC. Four others, the Mercedes C-Class, Lexus IS 250, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350, earned poor ratings.
The IIHS said the new test indicates that side air bags, which are designed for direct impact, T-bone crashes but not for off-center, frontal ones, may not go off in time or extend far enough to protect occupants.
In three cars, the BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen, the seat belts spooled out too much after the crash, causing the crash-test dummies to strike hard surfaces. The s door of the Volkswagen CC was completely sheared off during the test.
Toyota, which owns the Lexus brand, accepted the results, “With this new test, the Institute has raised the bar again and we will respond to this challenge as we design new vehicles,” a Toyota statement said.
Mercedes did not agree with its ranking and pointed out that the C-Class is listed as one of the institute´s top safety picks. Mercedes said the crash test mimics an unusually severe and uncommon scenario. “As a leader in automotive safety, we have full confidence in the protection that the C-Class affords its occupants, and less confidence in any test that doesn´t reflect that,” Mercedes said in a statement.
The IIHS said it plans to change its criteria for the top safety picks next year to incorporate the new test. The group developed the test after years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes, which kill more than 10,000 people annually in the US.