Nearly All Domestic-Brand Vehicles Miss 2016 IIHS Top Safety Cut

December 9, 2015

Domestic brands—like Chevy, Ford, GMC, Dodge, and others—aren’t making the cut for safety.

So says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in the latest version of its Top Safety Pick+ list, which helps separate the best from the rest, by considering occupant safety and accident avoidance.

The U.S. agency, funded by the insurance industry, is finding a surprising safety gap down brand and automaker lines, with the lack of effective automatic-braking systems in domestic-brand vehicles a key factor keeping domestic models from earning a place on the 2016 Top Safety Pick+ list.

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The 2016 Chrysler 200 is the only domestic-brand model to earn a place on the 2016 TSP+ list (although the Fiat 500X, from the same parent company, also makes the list). Yet Toyota has nine models on the top list for 2016, while Honda has eight models and Subaru has six on the list.

For Subaru, that’s every model that automaker sells in the U.S. except for its BRZ sports car.

In stark contrast, Ford and GM have no winners on the top list, which includes nearly 50 vehicles.

Tighter requirements—and nearly all domestics got shut out

The reason for that is that the requirements have tightened. This year, for the first time, the IIHS is requiring a top ‘good’ result in the small overlap frontal test in order for a vehicle to earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation.

It’s now one of several key differentiating factors between the Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ lists—essentially the difference between the honor roll and the dean’s list, respectively.

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Each year, the agency, which makes its decisions firmly rooted in real-world results from accident data and injury and fatality rates, tightens the criteria just a bit more. Just two years ago it introduced a requirement that Top Safety Pick+ models meet the IIHS ‘basic’ mark for front collision warning effectiveness, last year it made automatic-braking capability (denoted by an ‘advanced’ or ‘superior’ rating) mandatory for making the TSP+ list.

In addition to those top ‘good’ small overlap frontal results, the IIHS again requires ‘good’ ratings for moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint (rear) tests.

It’s also requiring that in order to make the Top Safety Pick+ list, a vehicle must earn ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ rating in front crash prevention—gauged by the presence of automatic braking and its performance as tested at 12 and 25 mph.

Some high achievers with a very low price

The IIHS notes that many otherwise top-rated vehicles for occupant protection fail to offer a front crash prevention system. It singles out the 2016 Audi Q3 as an example of that. Meanwhile, the group points to the 2016 Scion iA, a subcompact sedan with a starting price of just $16,495, as the first low-priced car to offer an automatic braking system as standard—and the only minicar to earn a 2016 IIHS award.

2016 Scion iA

2016 Scion iA

More than 20 vehicles that were named to the 2015 Top Safety Pick list last year, and four models that were previously Top Safety Pick+ winners, also didn’t make the cut this time.

Both the Toyota Highlander SUV and the Toyota Sienna minivan were among the latter group. They failed to meet the top-tier small overlap front test requirement; both of those models earn the second-best ‘acceptable’ rating in that test.

2016 Volvo XC90 Excellence

2016 Volvo XC90 Excellence

At this point there are 48 Top Safety Pick+ winners for 2016—including 31 models that offer front crash protection systems rated ‘superior,’ and 17 models with such systems that earn an ‘advanced’ rating.

The TSP+ list will grow—perhaps to include more domestics

The agency did point out that tests of more vehicles are forthcoming—and more models that have been recently redesign, refreshed, or changed in significant ways may be added to the list (or back to the list) as they’re tested. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, essentially a refreshed-and-reconfigured version of last year’s M-Class, is one example of that.

2016 Nissan Maxima

2016 Nissan Maxima

And despite some models falling off the list, there were a number of significantly improved. The agency lists the Nissan Maxima as a model that’s improved its small overlap frontal ratings (it was redesigned for 2016), while the refreshed 2016 Volkswagen Passat has also brought its ratings up to ‘good.’

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Keep reading for the full list of 2016 Top Safety Pick+ winners (and head to IIHS to see the full Top Safety Pick list for 2016).

Minicar
Scion iA

Small cars
Acura ILX
Lexus CT 200h
Mazda 3
Subaru Crosstrek
Subaru Impreza
Subaru WRX
Volkswagen Golf 4-door and SportWagen
Volkswagen GTI 4-door

Midsize moderately priced cars
Chrysler 200
Honda Accord 2-door coupe
Honda Accord 4-door sedan
Mazda 6
Nissan Maxima
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Toyota Camry
Toyota Prius v
Volkswagen Jetta
Volkswagen Passat

Midsize luxury/near-luxury cars
Audi A3
BMW 2 series
Lexus ES
Volvo S60
Volvo V60

Large family car
Toyota Avalon

Large luxury cars
Acura RLX
Audi A6 (built after January 2015)
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti Q70 (does not apply to V8 4-wheel drive)
Lexus RC
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Volvo S80

Small SUVs
Fiat 500X (built after July 2015)
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Mazda CX-5
Mitsubishi Outlander
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Midsize SUVs
Honda Pilot
Nissan Murano

Midsize luxury SUVs
Acura MDX
Acura RDX
Audi Q5
Lexus NX
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

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