Last May, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 compact crossover was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It’s a misleading title, but who is to blame?
The vehicle earns that rating without enduring the IIHS’ latest addition to its gauntlet of crash tests. It doesn’t need to. What’s especially frustrating is the possibility that uninformed consumers might see a label that says “Top Safety Pick” and think the car is, in fact, at the top of its peers. Not so.
Just like automaker retail sites that show an asterisk to hint at hidden costs like vehicle delivery and dealer fees, it’s hard not to wonder if the IIHS rating should come with a similar warning sign. The RAV4 fared poorly, but it’s one of several otherwise high-scoring vehicles to be slapped with “poor” small overlap ratings.
“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety periodically develops new, more severe or specialized tests that go beyond federal requirements. With the small overlap test, the institute has raised the bar again, and we are responding to the challenge. We are looking at a range of solutions to achieve greater crash performance in this area,” Toyota spokesperson Cindy Knight said.
Part of the problem with the IIHS introducing a new test is that automakers might not be able to adjust vehicle designed easily to meet the new standards. Fast fixes mean tacking on more weight, which harms fuel economy and increases production costs.
“We are pleased that Toyota RAV4 remains an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and that Toyota has a total of 21 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models named 2013 IIHS “Top Safety Picks”, including the Camry, Corolla, and the Prius Family – more than any other automaker,” Knight said.
The IIHS rates 13 vehicles under its “small SUV” category and two of those spaces are taken by the Subaru Forester to distinguish the 2014 model. Of those 13, half were given “poor” ratings. Most of those that escaped the worst possible mark we branded “marginal,” which is only one step better. The Outlander Sport managed an “acceptable” rating and Subaru’s Foresters both got top-mark “good” ratings.
This presents a problem because vehicles get away with what sounds like a glowing endorsement while utterly failing in certain areas.
In order to be named a “Top Safety Pick” the IIHS requires that vehicles “receive good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their ratings in the small overlap front test.” Top Safety Pick Plus ratings, on the other hand, require a “good” rating on four of five categories, with no less than an “acceptable” rating for the fifth.
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