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.
The 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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