By on November 18, 2009

The IIHS has released its “Top Safety Picks 2010,” and thanks in part to the addition of roof crush tests that exceed federal standards (4x vehicle weight for an “acceptable” score) , a spot of drama has ensued. Not a single Toyota, Lexus or Scion made the list, for example, causing Toyota’s Irv Miller to lay into the IIHS [via Jalopnik].

In 2009, Toyota won more IIHS Top Safety Pick (TSP) awards than any other manufacturer. Toyota continues to improve vehicle passive and active safety, including improvement of past winners of IIHS TSP. IIHS’ statement that Toyota was shut out for 2010 is extreme and misleading, considering there are 38 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models, and only three were tested for roof strength by IIHS: Camry, RAV4 and Yaris. This is the first year IIHS has included its own roof strength tests, which exceed federal standards, for TSP consideration. All Toyota vehicles meet or exceed Federal Safety Standards for frontal and side impact, roof crush resistance and rollover protection.

Well, Toyota, if you play the IIHS’s game (and based on Miller’s TSP-counting, you are) you can’t start whining about losing just because the goalposts were moved. Moving goalposts and exceeding federal requirements is what the IIHS does. The IIHS’s single aim is to continually move the safety benchmark ever upward, without taking fuel efficiency, packaging or any other inevitable design compromises into account. Live by the sword, die by the sword. If meeting federal standards is enough (and it is), just ignore the IIHS like former TSP winners and 2010 losers BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Saab are. Or better yet, join the debate over whether or not increased roof crush standards actually make cars safer. As it’s played out, Miller’s response serves only to reduce the automaker’s likability factor and lend credence to rumors that Toyota fudges structural issues and hides the truth.

Here are your 2010 IIHS Top Safety Pick Winners:

Large cars
Buick LaCrosse
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Chevrolet Malibu built after October 2009
Chrysler Sebring 4-door with optional electronic stability control
Dodge Avenger with optional electronic stability control
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Passat sedan
Volvo C30

Small cars
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Volkswagen Golf 4-door

Midsize SUVs
Dodge Journey
Subaru Tribeca
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda Element
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

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35 Comments on “IIHS Moves Crash Test Goalposts, Pisses Off Toyota...”

  • avatar

    Mr. Niedermeyer:
    In case you did not notice, TTAC website is slow. I would say slower than the ones I visited back in 1996. It took me like 5 minutes to open a page or post a comment.
    I know it’s not easy to run a website. But it’s no longer an enjoyment to browse TTAC. You simply have to do what needs to be done. Purchase more bandwidth, or sell more ads, or remove all pod casts or whatever.
    P.S. As expected, your website ate my post. But I did a control-c before I hit “submit comment.” Let’s see if it can post this time.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      @wsn,   We’re aware of recurring issues that are related to the switch-over to the new site. The VS tech department is working on them. Hopefully , it will be resolved soon. Thanks for you patience.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the feedback.

        • 0 avatar

          This is Monty, but on this post I’m logged in as PennSt8. In the other three windows I’ve got open I’m logged in as three different users.

          Just thought you would like to know.

      • 0 avatar

        New Headline Suggestion:
        IIHS Moves Crash Test Goalposts; VerticalScope Pisses Off TTAC’s B&B

        Paul, I know it’s not the fault of anyone on the masthead, but the site problems are getting worse since the upgrade. Today, I’ve been auto-logged on/off several times, and not always with my username. I’ve also had several posts disappear, even though they appeared in the Recent Comments box. I just noticed that the nested replies I despise are now even worse, as the replies are now randomly dispersed throughout the thread, resulting in no continuity. Recurring problems have to be driving away traffic, and that can’t be good for site profit or longevity.

        Please create a thread just for Site Problems and post a persistent  link at the top of the homepage. Maybe having a list of current site problems will help VerticalScope’s webgineers get TTAC back on track. If nothing else, we’ll have an appropriate place to whine. :)

  • avatar

    I wonder why the Honda Civic Si sedan failed to rate as highly as the non-Si sedan. I wouldn’t think the relatively minor weight difference would matter, and the Si has stability control standard. As far as body integrity, it’s the same car. The only differences are a more powerful drivetrain and a stronger suspension. Any performance differences are moot, as the rating/testing isn’t affected by those parameters.

    • 0 avatar

      My guess is that they didn’t test the Si and thus counldn’t recommend it. Didn’t the article say they only tested 3 out of the 38 Toyota models? The problem with this study is that they didn’t reveal the very limited coverage. They shouldn’t even publish anything before at least the top 20 selling models are included in the study. That’s not a bar too high, considering Toyota alone has 38 models and MB probably has 40955 models (AMGs included).

      • 0 avatar

        That could very well be the reason for the non-Si addendum. Still seems odd, but it’s their test, so they make the rules.

        Part of Toyota’s dismay is likely due to how the IIHS ratings are incorporated into other ratings. Get dinged here, and your CR rating also takes a hit. Also, IIHS felt the need to single out Toyota: “Not a single model from the world’s biggest automaker by sales is represented among this year’s winners.” IIHS should’ve let the test results speak for themselves.

        • 0 avatar

          IIHS gave Toyota opportunities in advance to say which vehicles to test.  Toyota, from what I read, didn’t respond.  Also, they were not singled out.  Results from several manufactures were listed, both good and bad.  Individual models from Honda and Ford were singled out as being removed from the list.  IIHS is free to interrupt the results it puts out, just like CR is and other people who like to review things.  It doesn’t mean the IIHS, CR, or others interpretations are correct, but saying they can’t comment on it is pretty ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar

            “Not a single model from the world’s biggest automaker by sales is represented among this year’s winners.” – IIHS

            I see that as a loaded statement. Sure, IIHS can do that, and their test data supports their statements about Toyota and the others. My point is that IIHS had no need to do so. Simply posting the list would’ve been a fairer way to present their findings, and would’ve made IIHS look all the better when Toyota (or others) started whining.

            Let the data speak for itself. As they only display test results for 4 parameters, a table of every 2010 vehicle tested, with its ratings alongside, seems a more useful presentation than the commentary. I know individual results are available, but a single table would be far more useful. That also would’ve made it very clear what vehicles were actually tested, rather than have a blanket statement (like the above quote) appear to condemn every Toyota model. Coincidentally, it would make the Civic Si question I had moot, as the table would clearly define what vehicle was tested, and not leave the IIHS’ disclaimers up in the air.

          • 0 avatar

            Who cares if the IIHS had a need to do so?  They are making a press release and showing interesting highlights.  From the IIHS standpoint, they want safer vehicles.  Calling out manufactures is a great way to get them to produce safer vehicles.  Remember, the IIHS wants less damage on the road so less insurance has to be paid out.  Just because you don’t like then “singling out Toyota”, which they didn’t by the way if you read the article and see the other manufactures that didn’t have a model make the cut, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to do so.  They also have a need to do so.

  • avatar

    I’m with Irv on this one.  But I don’t think it makes Toyota look like they’re hiding anything.
    This saga reminds me of the ongoing SUV rollover controversies, as well as the Smart vs Suburban collision test controversy.  All these vehicles meet Federal safety standards, or else they couldn’t be sold in the US.  But not all are equally “safe”.
    So choose the type of accident you plan to have and want to survive, then purchase accordingly.

  • avatar

    IIHS is a private organization and they can expect auto makers to comply to their standard.  They don’t have the force of law behind their standard like the government standards.
    One question is the timeframe of the IIHS standards.  Were they published in 2008 expecting compliance in 2009?  Designs of automobiles take several years to finish and the engineers need to know the specifications to meet them.

  • avatar

    How the hell do the Audi A3 and Volvo C30 get into the midsize car category, but the Golf end up in the small car category? Is it some kind of IIHS slickery?

  • avatar

    If your read the article from IIHS, it appears that the roof tests were done on models selected to be tested by the manufactures because of the roof test change.  Oddly enough, the Camry isn’t a top safety pick because its rear crash test rating, not the roof crush test.
    I agree with you on the time it would take to redesign the auto to work with the new standards.  But, the IIHS asked the manufactures what models to test and notified them earlier this year.  Not enough to redesign, but enough to know which vehicles to submit for testing.

  • avatar

    I went to the site to see how cars who didn’t make the cut did.
    But, what wasn’t on there was interesting.  No trucks,  MidSize SUV’s only had 2 entries, no large SUV’s, and no minivans.  On would think that these would be some of the most important vehicles to test since they are the most likely to have rollovers.  I would think that the manufactures should have selected some of these vehicles.

  • avatar

    Safety is a moving target, and it’s proper for people who test vehicle safety to raise the bar.  That said, the IIHS tests carry enough weight that I think the manufacturers deserve some lead time before the IIHS adopts new standards.

  • avatar

    Ummm….so the Camry earned a “Good” in the new rollover (roof crush test), but because the rear crash test scores were subpar it was kept off the Top Picks list.
    To take it a step further the rear crash test scores have been rated that way for several years. Instead of the lame update of uglier front maws and annoyingly cheap looking LED tails, they should have corrected the issues associated with the rear crash test scores.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Perhaps, but given the relative frequency of crashes that can be prevented by better (faster) brake lights vs. crashes involving injuries that could be mitigated or prevented by conforming to the Insurance Institute for Higher Surcharges’ new tests, Toyota made the right choice;  upgrading the Camry to LED brake lights will probably save more people more money and prevent more injuries than altering the structure.

  • avatar

    Umm Edward,
    Something is wrong with the site. For some reason it appears that I can post as the
    last commenter ( or at least it seems that way. We’ll see when I hit the submit button)
    Sorry Pennst8 to commandeer your name.

  • avatar

    If you run on over to jalopnik you can get the back and forth between ‘Yoda and IIHS.  Seems that there’s more than just this whining.

  • avatar

    Roof crush should be related to mass – SUVs should have to meet a higher standard than passenger cars of less mass. SUV rollovers are the most significant killers/cause-of-injury in that class.

  • avatar

    From what I understand of these results, there were a great number of vehicles that nearly made the grade, and they manufacturers stated that they would make the needed changes to get the ratings.
    This includes more than just the roof, but rear ends as well.
    Quite a few missed the boat due to other failings.
    Its all good.
    Design your new cars with the new standards and all will be fine in the end.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    The windows on the Honda Civic (which looks to be an LX model, not an si) are not even broken!!!  The whole passenger compartment looks to be perfectly intact!  That is an awesome result, seeing I just purchased a slightly used 2006 Civic EX sedan a lady had just turned in off-lease with 37776 miles.  Sometimes these things just fall into your lap.  I miss my 01 Accord, but not much.  I also feel much safer now in my little slot car!  Is there better engineering than Honda?  I feel not.

  • avatar

    Didn’t that guy narrate Rocky Horror?

  • avatar

    My my how the mighty have fallen. Toyota’s arrogance has finally become front-page news quite often over the last year.

    From denials of engine sludging and frame rotting, to squabbles with NHTSA about sudden accelleration issues. And now this… Beat by Chrysler…

    Now if only the average customer would realize that Toyota is NOT “god-like” and actually builds MANY unsafe and large gas-guzzling vehicles, just like all the others, then maybe the playing field will become a bit more level.

  • avatar

    BTW… I noticed a Lexus commercial the other day that states the LS is the “first all-wheel-drive luxury V8 hybrid”. That’s false advertising, becasue the Chrysler Aspen is actually the first.

    The Aspen WAS a luxury vehicle that was offered as a V8 hybrid. It’s transfer case was also an all-wheel-drive type and not a true four-wheel-drive.

    Trust me on this one. I worked on them…

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I believe Lexus was referring to the LS 600h L as being the first all-wheel-drive luxury V8 hybrid car.

      Not to worry. It probably wouldn’t survive a crash anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Puthuff

      How many of those Aspen Hybrids were sold? Five? Ten?

    • 0 avatar

      The Aspen hybrid was a 2009, the LS hybrid first sold as a 2008.
      Also, I’d question whether anyone other than Chrysler considered the Aspen a luxury vehicle, given that it wasn’t from a luxury marque and wasn’t particularly more luxurious than the top trim levels of a handful of non-luxury full-sizers.

  • avatar


    I watched the commercial agin becasue I thought maybe that was their angle, but it was not. They did not mention “car” anywhere in that statement.

    And you’re right. It wouldn’t survive anyway (hehe).

    • 0 avatar

      Did they mention SUV or truck in the ad? I don’t think they do, yet curiously, there’s a large, all-wheel-drive, luxury, V8/hybrid car shown throughout. Lexus could’ve been clearer, but since it’s still available and the Aspen isn’t, does it really matter?

  • avatar

    @ ctoan  (curse this nested reply crap) –

    Autojunkie has a point, albeit a weak one. I believe MY2010 is the first year an AWD version of the LS 600h L is available, so technically, the AWD Aspen did beat it to market. Also, at least one other person thought the Chrysler Aspen was a luxury vehicle, but I doubt many were cross shopping $45k SUVs against $110k sedans.

    BTW AJ, I don’t mean to knock your work at all, as I’d take pride in bringing the Aspen to market, too. I hope you’re weathering the Carpocalypse reasonably well.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    Ah, yes, thank you federal nannies for mandating roof crush standards, which create bigger blind spots and higher CGs, and as a result, more accidents.  Hmm…  seems to me this would create higher premiums – presumably with fewer, or maybe just the same injuries.  Thus more kickbacks to the IIHS.  Coincidence???

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    If meeting federal standards is enough (and it is)
    Says who, aside from the government, and on what grounds? This assumes the Federal requirements are all based soundly in science without taint of politics or other extraneous factors, and that’s not the case. Every Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard allows a large range of safety performance, and vehicles that just barely meet the minimum requirements are just as legal as those greatly exceeding them. A vehicle that complies with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards is not necessarily “safe” (for whatever definition we wish to use), it’s merely compliant; vehicles that score well in U.S. safety tests often score poorly in international ECE safety tests and vice-versa.

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