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2018 IIHS Awards Show That American Automakers Are Lagging Again

Safety Technology / 13 Comments

Just when we thought the quality of our domestics was on the rise.

Out of all the progress made in automotive safety over the years, it was the headlights that could make or break whether or not a car was awarded a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That might seem like an easy benchmark to clear given that lights are less complex than forward collision warning systems and the like and have had more than a century to develop, but a required rating of "good" headlights made it so only 15 of the 2018 models received the IIHS' top safety designation.

That wasn't all, however. The IIHS also required a Top Safety Pick + car to have good or acceptable ratings in its new passenger-side small overlap front crash test. That stipulation was included after it was found that some automakers were neglecting to make the same changes that protect the driver's side in a small overlap crash test to the passenger's side (which wasn't always tested before). "Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "Manufacturers have been taking this issue seriously since we first shed light on it, and we're confident that good small overlap protection will become the norm on the passenger side, just as it has on the driver side."

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This makes perfect sense, but where did the headlights go wrong? Apparently it all began when the designers' priorities focused more on style than on safety. "Headlights have long been treated as design elements instead of the critical safety equipment that they are," Lund says. "We're pleased to see this changing." In total, 62 models met the IIHS' criteria to win awards. Most of the 15 Top Safety Pick + trophies were awarded to Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis—proving that the Korean automakers are making leaps and strides when it comes to safety. The other 47 Top Safety Pick winners come from a much larger pool of automakers, though Toyota had 10 models rank in this category—more than the rest of the competition.

Sparse on this list were American automakers, with the Lincoln Continental being the only Top Safety Pick + and the Chrysler Pacifica, Buick Envision, and Chevrolet Bolt getting Top Safety Pick awards. Time to up the ante.