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Despite Controversial Recall, GM SUVs Earn Top Safety Pick

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Crash test dummy in a 2010 Hyundai Tucson GLS ...

Crash test dummy in a 2010 Hyundai Tucson GLS at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vehicle Research Center. Category:Hyundai_Tucson_LM Category:Crash tests Category:Crash test dummies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amid the controversy over General Motors’ decade-long delay to recall 2.6 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches linked to 13 crash deaths-now the subject of a federal investigation-the company has placed much emphasis on differentiating the new GM from the old. GM CEO Mary Barra’s claims that the new company is better than the old one received some support this week with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s release of its Top Safety Picks for 2014: while, overall, midsize SUVs disappointed in the small overlap crash test, the Chevrolet Equinox and its twin, the GMC Terrain, earned a good rating, making them eligible for the IIHS’ highest award, Top Safety Pick Plus.

After research indicated that about a quarter of all serious trauma is suffered in frontal collisions in which the front corner of the vehicle strikes a fixed object, such as a telephone pole or a tree, the IIHS began subjecting vehicles to the small overlap crash test in 2012. During the test, which is more difficult than either the head-on crash tests conducted by the government or the IIHS’ longstanding overlap test, 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side hits a rigid barrier at 40 mph. It can be harder for a vehicle to manage the energy of an impact when its front-end crush zone is bypassed and, consequently, its occupant compartment could collapse.

In order for a vehicle to earn the Top Safety Pick designation, it has to receive a good or acceptable rating for the small overlap protection test, a first for 2014, and good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

The Toyota Highlander, with an acceptable small overlap rating, also received the Top Safety Pick designation. SUVs that performed poorly included the Honda Pilot, the worst of the group, the Mazda CX-9 and the Ford Explorer.

While the award does suggest a better culture of safety at GM, the company’s true test will come in its handling of civil lawsuits brought by the victims of crashes involving its defective ignitions-then it will have a chance to show consumers how highly it regards their best interest.

What do you think? Do you review safety ratings prior to purchasing a car?

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