May 5, 2005

Consumer Reports announces new two-tier recommendations

Yonkers, New York – Consumer Reports magazine reports that it will now rate new vehicles with two tiers of recommended models that will take crash testing into account.

To earn a first-tier recommendation, a vehicle must now perform well in Consumer Reports’ testing, have average or better reliability, and if crash-tested, provide good overall crash protection, based on a composite of insurance industry and government crash tests. Models that have not been crash-tested can only earn a first-tier recommendation. Vehicles also must not have tipped in the government’s rollover test.

The main change is that the company’s crash-protection evaluation is now based on a vehicle’s overall crash performance. Previously, a vehicle that did poorly in a single crash test could not be recommended, but the company reports that some crash tests represent only a minority of real-world incidents.

To earn the more stringent second-tier recommendation, vehicles must meet all of the first-tier requirements, have been included in both the frontal-offset and side-crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and provide very good or excellent overall crash protection.

The catalyst for the change was the recent release by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) of its first side-crash-test results for small cars. This severe test simulates a vehicle being hit in the side by an SUV or pickup truck at approximately 50 km/h. In the test, 14 of 16 small cars did poorly. Consumer Reports states, “It’s not surprising that most of today’s small cars provide inadequate protection when hit in the side by an SUV or truck, especially since most current vehicles were not designed for this test. But many people interested in small cars are looking primarily for good fuel economy, a low price, or easy parking. We felt our recommendation system needed to provide balanced guidance for this type of buyer as well as for those who place top priority on crash protection.”

As a result of the changes, seven vehicles kept their recommendations but at the lower level, because of their high scores in a number of tests other than the IIHS side-crash test: the Ford Focus, Honda Element, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Altima, and Suzuki XL-7.

“We think the new IIHS test will help motivate automakers to improve side protection in all cars, and we expect most vehicles to do well eventually and be eligible for our higher level recommendation,” the company stated.

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