Toyota Camry crushed by new crash test

The best-selling car in America and the Prius wagon received the worst safety score an auto safety group had to offer.

By Jason Notte Dec 20, 2012 5:05PM

Image: Traffic - Pixtal, SuperStockThe Toyota (TM) Camry looks secure enough with its 5-star government safety rating, but viewed from another angle it seems far more dangerous.

For the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, that angle hits a small part of the bumper on the driver's side at 40 miles per hour. It's what separates the institute's "small overlap" front crash test from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's tests that use 40% of a vehicle's front bumper. It's also the Camry's weakness.

The test earned both the Camry and Toyota's Prius V wagon "poor" ratings from the IIHS, which is financed by the U.S. insurance industry. While the two vehicles still received the group's Top Safety Pick award for their performance in more standard front, rear and side impact test, the new test recreates the crash responsible for a quarter of serious or fatal frontal crashes nationwide.

"With this new test, the Institute has raised the bar again and we will respond to this challenge as we design new vehicles," Toyota said in a statement.

It's a diplomatic response from a company that's been continually battered by this test in 2012. Back in August, Toyota's Lexus ES and IS brands flunked in similar fashion and received the test's worst rating. At least then it was in some pretty good company, as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 also failed. Only Honda's (HMC) Acura TL and Volvo's S60 earned the test's best ratings.

Mercedes was somewhat less taken with the results than Toyota.

"As a leader in automotive safety, we have full confidence in the protection that the C-Class affords its occupants -- and less confidence in any test that doesn't reflect that," it said in a statement at the time.

The more than 373,000 Camrys sold in the U.S. so far this year outnumber the sales of all other cars and are second only to the Ford F-Series truck, which has the Camry beat by more than 200,000 vehicles. The IIHS crash test is still a concern, however, as the four-door sedan version of the rival Honda Accord was one of only two cars to score a "good" rating, the institute's best. The other "good" car, the Suzuki Kizashi, only sold 500 models in November compared to more than 25,000 apiece for the Camry and Accord and won't be sold here next year after bankrupt Suzuki leaves the U.S. market.

Many of the other cars in the test -- including the two-door Accord coupe, the Ford (F) Fusion sedan, Kia Optima, Nissan (NSANY) Altima and Maxima, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200, Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat -- were considered "acceptable." The Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen (VLKAF) Jetta sedan were only somewhat better than the Camry and Prius V, earning a second-worst "marginal" rating.

Just in case drivers are wondering how much damage a "poor" car takes during this test, the Camry's front wheel was pushed back so far that it bent the passenger compartment footwell inward. It also pushed the whole steering column so far to the right so that the airbag in the steering wheel did almost nothing to protect the crash dummy's head. Side curtain airbags could have helped, if they extended far forward a bit more. The Prius V had similar results, though late deployment rendered airbags almost useless.

"Toyota engineers have a lot of work to do to match the performance of their competitors," Institute president Adrian Lund said in a statement.

Coming off an accelerator-related safety recall two years ago that decimated sales and an earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year that cut supply, Toyota likely won't put off that work for long.

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Tags: Autos
Dec 20, 2012 8:17PM
Um,  can we comment on cars n stuff?
Dec 20, 2012 8:37PM
It is amazing how the libs say that they just cannot find a nickle to cut out of the budget!  Just one example:  The US spent $1.4 BILLION on Obama and his family's vacations, protection, and entertainment!  Just for comparison:  Great Britain spent around $60 million on their royal family.  So we spent about 25,000 times more on our first family!  There are even full time projectionists to put in the Obama family's dvds!  Nothing to cut my a$$!!!!!
Dec 20, 2012 6:35PM
Hmmm, seems some people were asleep during American History class. Remember back in the 1770's when there was no army, no police etc. And big bad King George was kicked the snot out of the settlers? And how did they fight back, an armed citizenry. Once you remove guns from the public only two factions will have guns. Armed Forces/Police and every two bit thief/car stealer/rapist etc. You my friend will be a third class citizen as they will hold all the power and you will be caught in their cross haris. There will always be people who go off their nut and commit horrible crimes. It doesn't take a gun. Go to the lawn and garden center, buy some fertilizer, a little web searching and you have a bomb that will do way more damage than a couple guns. Remember Oklahoma City? Don't see anyone saying, nope no fertilizer for your lawn this year, it's banned.
Dec 21, 2012 12:20AM
Not too many car comments on here, some people are just total morons or can't comprehend the written English word.
Dec 20, 2012 5:38PM
All this will do is create a surge in gun sales of people thinking they better load up before it's too late. It's kind of like when a snowstorm hits and everyone runs to the store for bread, milk and toilet paper. They get crazy. Seriously, guns won't go away and trust me, you will see milk, bread and TP again.
Dec 20, 2012 7:35PM
I've always said they sell junk, it's becoming a fact with the experts. FINALLY
Dec 20, 2012 6:49PM
There is a Dick's sporting goods within 15 miles of my house.  I've been in there once, saw the inflated prices and left.  I could care less whether Dick's sell guns or not.  BTW Academy sporting goods is closer and cheaper anyway.
Dec 20, 2012 6:29PM
dozens of recalls and now the Toyotas are un-crashworthy too.  Why are they the best selling car if they are cheap and dangerous?  See the last election for clues.

"Best selling car"  still doesn't sell nearly as much as the "best selling vehicle", the Ford F150.

how many people were killed by drunk drivers take away the booze.Just how smart our public figures leagize drugs so that many more may be killed .These games that are at sale in wall mart target and other large retail stores can teach our kids how to kill,what in the hell has happened to the people that promote all these products,seames to me we didnt have all these troubles in the 50ts and 60ths.all the teachers and design people should be sent to prison or somewhere where they learn something of valvue to teach our kids.
Dec 21, 2012 12:17AM

So now ONCE AGAIN, Americans can realize they are driving TIN CANS like they always were...

Keep betting your life on it, along with SUV rollovers.


I'll drag out the old saw....." It runs like a toy ought to..."

Dec 20, 2012 7:51PM
How about background checks and psych exam prior to buying a gun?  Deal with mentally ill so they can get treated without taking everyone with them.
Dec 20, 2012 6:38PM

Give it time...... we're all going to die from "Myan Radon gas".

Dec 20, 2012 7:48PM
Unfortunately, the gun paradigm will never solve itself. First of all there is the 2nd Amendment and its interpretations. Secondly, guns and hardware are a  big industry (Too much money to be made) and too many jobs at stake. Third, we are a nation whose culture cultivates fear, fear of ourselves, fear of the other. Fourth, we are a culture of violence. Fifth, we are a nation verging on class warfare due to a massive consolidation of wealth by the corporatist class (Too few with too much). Sixth, ideological conflict has virtually eliminated rational discourse - just take a look at congress. And Seventh, we have institutionalized the security state at a rate of well over a $ trillion a year. I think its time for a paradigm shift.   
Dec 20, 2012 8:38PM
and next year the camry will out sell all other cars again why? because its a toyota . dependable reliable stylish and holds its value. unlike most other cars especially american made cars.
Dec 20, 2012 10:59PM
You're all idiots resulting from your poor American educations. We on the other hand are the greatest people the earth has ever seen. 

Go crawl back into your humble caves.
Dec 20, 2012 5:58PM
Let's just banned guns for awhile out of respect for the Newton victims, but don't banned them for the long run.  America is about freedom, and we have a right to buy what we want.  The gun seller should indeed have a right to NOT sell a gun to a suspicion person.
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