Female crash-test dummies were added to the male figures for the first time as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated 34 models under a redesigned testing regime, the regulatory agency said today in a statement.
BMW’s four-door, rear-wheel-drive 5 Series and the latest model of Hyundai’s Sonata were the only vehicles in the first batch rated to receive five stars, the top overall safety score. Both cars scored five stars on side-crashes and rollovers and four stars in frontal crashes.
“We are raising the bar on safety,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a press conference in Washington amid crash-tested cars. “We are subjecting cars to more safety tests, addressing grade inflation.”
Nissan Motor Co.’s Versa received the lowest overall rating of two stars, scoring four stars in rollovers, three in frontal crashes and two in side crashes.
The new crash tests include dummies representing women, who tend to be smaller than the male figures used exclusively in the past and may be harmed differently in an accident, according to NHTSA. The new dummies also collect data about injuries to the chest, head, neck and legs, while the old ones measured only chest damage.
NHTSA has also begun compiling an overall rating for each model for the first time rather than reporting only the front, side and rollover collision results.
Automakers had questioned the redesigned safety ratings because they aren’t directly comparable to the ratings they replaced, potentially creating confusion.
“The new ‘Stars on Cars’ rating system will now reflect our advancements even better,” Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Chief Executive Officer Dave McCurdy said in a statement. “But, since the tests are getting more challenging, many ratings may go down at first -- even when a model hasn’t changed.””
NHTSA plans to test 55 model year 2011 vehicles and will test more models under the new procedures next year, the agency’s Administrator David Strickland said at the press conference. The overall rating won’t be displayed on window stickers at dealer lots for 2011 models to give automakers time to redesign the labels, he said, adding that the agency decided to release ratings for models as they become available.
“It’s better for us to get this information out to the public right now so they can make better choices about cars,” he said.
The agency said it is continuing to test cars and trucks and plans to add the results as they are complete to its website at http://www.safercar.gov.
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