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New car crash test results turn more than a few industry heads

The new crash safety test being implemented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is creating some shock waves among automakers and their customers due to surprising test results that are challenging prior notions of the safety of various models.

Some models stand to have their reputations hurt more than marginally. Toyota's Camry is one notable example: Despite being one of the most popular cars in the United States and being regarded as a safe family vehicle, the model performed poorly in the new crash test.

In fact, no Toyota model ranked in the top group of vehicles in terms of motor vehicle crash safety, despite being a repeat winner in the past. Camry and the Prius V were at their worst in the small-overlap frontal crash test administered by the IIHS.

Another surprising trend was that lower-cost vehicles had a tendency to perform better in small-overlap tests than more expensive vehicles. Even the president of the IIHS was shocked to see midsize family cars receive better collision ratings than midsize luxury cars.

The small overlap test in particular proved illuminating as a different approach to analyzing vehicle safety in a variety of accident scenarios.

The results mean that safety changes could soon be rolled out on car assembly lines in Ohio and elsewhere. The IIHS has plenty of industry clout and power, and automakers will likely be eager to redesign safety features to better protect passengers in a car accident -- and thus achieve a better rating in safety tests.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Honda, Suzuki Cars Perform Best, Toyota Falters in IIHS Crash-Testing," Jonathan Welsh, Dec. 20, 2012

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