Most Small SUVs Fare Poorly on U.S. Frontal Crash Tests

Almost all the small sport-utility vehicles tested by an insurance industry group fared poorly in a simulation of a deadly type of front-end crash.

Subaru’s Forester was the only vehicle out of 13 tested to score “good,” while Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (7267)’s Outlander Sport placed second with an “acceptable” rating in a test the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began using last year.

The rest scored “poor” or “marginal.” Vehicles rated “poor” were the Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) Tucson, Kia Motors Corp. (000270) Sportage, General Motors Co. (GM)’s Buick Encore, Chrysler LLC’s Jeep Patriot and Ford Motor Co. (F)’s Escape.

Small SUVs have become an increasingly popular choice for families, with sales of all SUVs and sport wagons rising 13.6 percent this year through April, according to auto researcher Autodata Corp., based in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Total vehicle sales were up 11.3 percent for that period.

“With the redesigned Forester, Subaru’s engineers set out to do well in our new test, and they succeeded,” Joe Nolan, the institute’s vice president for vehicle research, said in an e-mailed statement. “This is exactly how we hoped manufacturers would respond to improve protection for people in these kinds of serious frontal crashes.”

The scores for the Subaru, a unit of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (7270) and the Mitsubishi gave them the “top safety pick plus” designation, the group’s highest.

Tougher Test

The insurance institute’s test simulates a vehicle’s front corner colliding with a car, tree or pole. It’s tougher than U.S. auto-safety regulators’ crash tests that are used to rate vehicles on a five-star system.

The six vehicles scored “marginal” included Nissan Motor Co.’s Rogue. The door frame of that model was pushed “far inside” the passenger compartment in the crash and almost touched the driver, the institute said.

The other SUVs scoring “marginal” were Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s X1, Mazda Motor Corp. (7261)’s CX-5, Honda Motor Co.’s CR-V, the Jeep Wrangler and Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Tiguan.

The institute, based in Arlington, Virginia, and funded by the insurance industry, has said it introduced the test last year because that type of accident accounts for almost one-fourth of frontal crashes that seriously injure or kill people in front seats.

It previously tested luxury and mid-size sedans. Twenty models have attained “top safety pick plus” so far.

Last year was the first year since 2005 when deaths on U.S. roads increased, rising 5.3 percent to 34,080, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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