Why Upcoming IIHS Test Results May Raise Future Car Prices

By Joel Arellano | August 13, 2012
What price in the name of safety, to paraphrase a familiar cliche. Well, apparently it's gonna cost plenty if you're an automaker. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety plans to release results of its latest vehicular crash tests later this week. The private, non-profit organization is keenly watched by both automakers and the car-buying public. While no IIHS results and recommendations are legally binding on automakers, its Top Safety Picks are valued as much as, if not more, as the star safety rating system by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The IIHS' new test involves front end crashes. Unlike previous tests, which measure impact of a vehicle going at 40 mpg against a barrier with 40 percent overlap, the new one involves a barrier with 25 percent overlap. Such "small overlap" crashes account for 25 percent of the 100,000 fatal front-crash accidents per year. In such accidents, the fragile steering wheel is absorbed the impact instead of the vehicle's crash cell.
The IIHS has tested 11 mid-sized vehicles for this new test. IIHS Institute President Adrian Lund believes automakers will make alterations to their vehicles' front ends once the results are released. Automakers who apparently have seen the results have already expressed concerns with such alternations. Honda and Mercedes-Benz, for example, can see such new front ends affecting their vehicles drivability and performance. Vehicle costs could rise as well, something the IIHS acknowledges. States Lund, "There's no free lunch. Yes, it's going to cost some money to change the vehicles. Probably, in the early designs, it may add some additional weight to vehicles as well. We suspect that, over time, automakers will be designing from scratch to do well in this and then they will be more efficient about how they build it." Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)