Japanese and German Automakers Dominate Safest Car List in U.S.

By Reuters
December 10,2015
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A visitor is reflected on a Toyota car at the company's showroom in Tokyo November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. safety group said Japanese and German automakers dominated the list of the safest vehicles on American roads, in part by adding advanced technology to prevent frontal collisions.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry funded group that prods automakers into building safer cars by awarding influential ratings, said Thursday that Toyota Motor topped the list of 48 Top Safety Pick+ of 2016 with 9 winners, which included the Camry, the best-selling U.S. car.

Another 13 qualified for the second highest award on the list, which is known as the Top Safety Pick. The awards, often used in automaker advertising, follow tougher criteria for safety standards this year than in the past.

The IIHS announcement comes just days after U.S. auto safety regulators unveiled on Tuesday a major proposed overhaul to crash safety tests that will require automakers to add crash avoidance technologies to new vehicles if they want to gain the top, five-star ratings.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing three new ratings for cars and trucks on pedestrian safety, crash worthiness and crash avoidance under its New Car Assessment Program.

NHTSA's proposal would push automakers to add advanced technologies like the ones IIHS is demanding to get top ratings.

Honda Motor placed second with eight winners announced by IIHS, followed by Volkswagen with seven winners and Subaru Motor with six awards.

In order to get the top IIHS rating, automakers must have a frontal crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities to prevent a rear-end collision. The vehicles must stop or slow down without driver intervention before hitting a target in tests at 12 or 25 miles per hour, IIHS said.

Among U.S. nameplates, only Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV's <FCHA.MI> Chrysler 200 received the Top Safety Pick+ award, as did its Fiat 500X.

IIHS said 2016 winners must also perform well in tougher offset crash tests. More than 20 winners of the Top Safety Pick award last year did not qualify for 2016.

"As vehicles continue to improve, however, we think it’s important to recognize that progress and encourage further advances by making our ratings more stringent," IIHS President Adrian Lund said.

For the first time, NHTSA will base the crash test ratings for vehicles on whether the manufacturer has included certain crash avoidance technology.

The new ratings are scheduled to take effect in the 2019 model year.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Diane Craft)