March 7, 2006


BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS earn “Top Safety Pick” in crash tests

Arlington, Virginia – The BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS have earned the silver “Top Safety Pick” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for good performance in front and side crash tests, plus acceptable ratings for seat/head restraint designs in rear tests. The two were among seven new or redesigned midsize models tested, along with the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Pontiac G6, Acura TSX and Infiniti G35.

The Ford Fusion, tested without its optional side airbags, earned the lowest overall rating, and was the only car in the group that didn’t earn a “good” rating in the frontal test. It earned a “poor” rating in the side test, and “marginal” for rear crash protection.

“Nearly every car now earns ‘good’ ratings in our frontal test,” says Institute president Adrian Lund. “The Fusion is ‘acceptable’, which isn’t a bad result, but it’s not competitive with other cars in its class. Based on this car’s side and rear evaluations, along with its ‘acceptable’ frontal rating, the Fusion is the lowest-rated moderately-priced midsize car we’ve evaluated.”

The Fusion’s side airbags are not standard equipment, and the IIHS’ policy is to test vehicles without these airbags if they are optional. Manufacturers who want a second test with side airbags must reimburse the IIHS for the cost of the vehicle. Initially, Ford did not request a second test, but now has asked for one using optional airbags.

The Hyundai Sonata and Pontiac G6 didn’t earn the “Top Safety Pick” award, but their crash test performances improved compared with their predecessor models (the Pontiac G6 was compared to the Grand Am). The IIHS’ frontal test on the Sonata lead to a recall, when the seatback failed to maintain adjustment in the position in which it was locked before the impact; post-crash inspection showed the lap portion of the driver’s safety belt was partially caught beneath the seatback adjustment lever and had likely activated the lever during the crash. Hyundai redesigned the lever for all cars manufactured on August 1, 2005 and later, and recalled the cars made earlier. All 2006 Sonatas with this change are rated “good” for frontal crash protection. The IIHS reports that the Sonata is one of the few relatively inexpensive cars with side airbags as standard equipment, and one of the few to earn a “good” rating for seat/head restraint design for protection in rear impacts.

The BMW 3 Series’ “Top Safety Pick” award applies only to 3 Series models manufactured after February 2006, when BMW redesigned its head restraints to improve performance in the rear test.

The full report can be viewed at www.iihs.org.

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