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U.S. vehicles shut out of list of safest autos

Imports take all 13 spots in the insurance industry awards because domestic vehicles lack a stability control feature.

November 21, 2006|From the Associated Press

DETROIT — Imported models took all 13 spots on the U.S. insurance industry's list of safest vehicles this year, mainly because of a new requirement that all cars and sport utility vehicles on the list have systems to keep them stable in an emergency.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety isn't bashful about its reasons for pushing electronic stability control. Its studies show that as many as 10,000 fatal crashes a year could be prevented if every vehicle had the safety feature.

"The research is so compelling that electronic stability control could help prevent many crashes from happening in the first place," institute spokesman Russ Rader said.

Winners for the 2007 model year included the Audi A6 in the large car category; the Audi A-4, Saab 9-3 and Subaru Legacy (with optional stability control) for mid-size cars; the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona minivans; the Mercedes M-class and Volvo XC90 luxury SUVs; the Acura RDX, Honda Pilot and Subaru B9 Tribeca mid-size SUVs; and the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester small SUVs.

All 13 vehicles are tops in protecting people in front, side and rear crashes based on institute tests during the year. Pickups were not included because the institute has not yet tested their side crashworthiness.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed requiring electronic stability control on all new vehicles by the 2012 model year, but institute President Adrian Lund said that's not soon enough.

"We think that they are too slow," Lund said. "Automakers will probably have it as standard equipment by the time the federal standards actually take full effect."

Domestic manufacturers had no models on the list because they haven't moved quickly enough to add stability control to their models, Lund said.

For instance, Ford Motor Co. would have had three cars -- the Ford Freestyle crossover and the Mercury Montego and Ford 500 -- make the list if they had stability control, the institute said. The 500 and the Montego earned top safety picks last year.

Ford spokesman Jim Cain said the three vehicles would get stability control for the 2008 model year, with versions equipped with the safety feature for sale sometime next year. The company has not determined whether the feature will be standard or optional, he said.

"We're moving in the same direction as the institute," he said.

Ford has said that it would put stability control on its entire lineup by the end of 2009.

General Motors Corp. said nearly two years ago that it would make the technology standard in all vehicles by 2010, including all SUVs and some full-size pickups in the 2007 model year.

Toyota has said stability control will be a standard feature across all its models by 2009.

DaimlerChrysler said it would have the technology on 54% of its vehicles this model year and would meet the federal government's timetable for the rest.

All 2007 SUVs, pickups and minivans produced by Honda Motor Co. carry the technology, and Hyundai Motor Co. said it was standard equipment on 70% of its 2007 vehicles.

Several other vehicles, including nine Toyota Motor Corp. models, would have made the list if they had stability control, the institute said.

No small cars made this year's list. The Honda Civic, which won last year, was knocked off because of a lack of stability control on most models.

The institute said the awards would help people compare vehicles without having to review results from multiple tests.

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