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Cars to Display Crash Ratings

Vehicles for sale must have safety labels by next September. Pickups are exempt for now.

September 08, 2006|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Stickers displaying crash ratings must be on vehicles in U.S. showrooms next year, a requirement that could prompt voluntary changes by automakers if they fail to meet consumer expectations, government officials and safety advocates said Thursday.

The safety displays must be on all vehicles, except pickups, no later than Sept. 1, 2007, which will cover the 2008 model year. They must be prominently displayed and convey the government's five-star ratings that include data on front and side crash protection and rollover risk.

The government already requires window stickers for fuel economy, cost and vehicle features.

Some new vehicles, including all made by Honda Motor Co. and most by General Motors Corp., include basic safety labeling. But most new sedans, sport utilities and minivans sold in the U.S. do not offer the information, officials said. Even those that do don't fully meet the government's new requirements.

Ford Motor Co. said many but not all of its vehicles included safety labels.

"Consumers will have the ability to make more informed decisions right there on the car sales lot," Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said.

DeWine sponsored the congressionally mandated requirement that is being imposed by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Joan Claybrook, president of consumer group Public Citizen, expects the stickers will influence consumers and automakers.

If a vehicle "has a bad rating they will be worried about it because it's going to be right there in the consumer's face. Dealers will be worried about it," Claybrook said.

Safety data based on government crash tests are available on the safety administration's website (www.nhtsa.gov), but safety advocates and others have complained that consumers do not know about it or may not have access to the Internet or time to do research.

Pickups have long been excluded from certain consumer safety rules because they have been sold as everyday vehicles only since the early 1990s. That they were not included in DeWine's measure was deemed an oversight that automakers and government officials said would be addressed.

Ford, maker of the popular F-series pickup, and GM say they will put safety stickers on their pickups. "We'll continue to add them before the deadline," Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said.

Regulators are considering updating the crash rating system, but safety agency administrator Nicole Nason declined to disclose what type of changes she would like to see. Nason did say the new sticker requirement could accelerate voluntary safety changes in some circumstances.

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