Image: 2010 Ford Taurus
Sam Varnhagen  /  Ford via AP
The 2010 Ford Taurus was among the top safety picks for new cars from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
updated 11/18/2009 9:46:26 AM ET 2009-11-18T14:46:26

Ford, Subaru and Volkswagen sit atop the U.S. insurance industry's annual list of the safest new vehicles, according to a closely watched assessment used by car companies to lure safety-conscious consumers to showrooms.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded its "top safety pick" on Wednesday to 19 passenger cars and eight sport utility vehicles for the 2010 model year. The institute substantially reduced the number of awards compared with 2009, because of tougher requirements for roof strength.

Ford Motor Co. and its Volvo unit received the most awards with six, followed by five awards apiece for Japanese automaker Subaru and German automaker Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit.

Chrysler Group LLC received four awards followed by two each for Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co.

Toyota Motor Corp., BMW AG, Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. were shut out in the annual IIHS review.

Ford Taurus
Ford's recipients include the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS passenger cars and the Volvo S80 and C30 passenger cars and the XC60 and XC90 SUVs.

Ford said in a statement it is "committed to providing customers with safe vehicles for a broad range of real-world crash conditions."

Subaru recorded winners with the Subaru Legacy, Outback and Impreza cars and Tribeca and Forester SUVs. Subaru was the only automaker with an IIHS winner in all four vehicle classes in which it competes.

The automaker, which has bucked the brutal U.S. sales market with a 13 percent increase during the first 10 months of 2009, attributed its safety success to a unique engine design that sits low in the vehicle chassis and moves down and under occupants in a frontal collision.

Tom Doll, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Subaru of America, said the awards were a "tribute to the engineering that goes into Subaru products."

Volkswagen scored with the 4-door versions of the Jetta, Passat and Golf, the Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Tiguan, a small SUV. Mark Barnes, Volkswagen of America's chief operating officer, said the "safety of our cars is of the utmost concern, from the initial design stages all the way through the maintenance procedures at dealerships."

Chrysler won the award for the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans equipped with optional electronic stability control, the Dodge Journey midsize SUV and the Jeep Patriot with optional side thorax air bags.

Scott Kunselman, Chrysler's senior vice president-engineering, said the awards underscore the Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker's "engineering capability and leadership in occupant protection."

GM and Honda
General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co. both received two awards. GM was recognized for the Buick LaCrosse and the Chevrolet Malibu while Honda won for 4-door versions of the Civic with optional electronic stability control and the Honda Element.

Other winners included the Nissan Cube, the Kia Soul and the Mercedes C Class.

The vehicles are selected for best protecting motorists in front, side and rear crash tests based on Institute evaluations during the year. The vehicles are required to have electronic stability control, or ESC, to qualify for the award. Earlier this year, the Institute said vehicles would need to receive its highest score in its roof strength evaluation to qualify the safety pick designation.

"With the addition of our roof strength evaluation, our crash test results now cover all four of the most common kinds of crashes," said Institute president Adrian Lund. "Consumers can use this list to zero in on the vehicles that are on the top rung for safety."

The Institute awarded its top prize to 94 vehicles in 2009 and attributed the decline in awards this year to the roof strength requirement. The Honda Accord and the Ford Fusion both dropped off the list because 2010 versions did not earn high enough scores on the roof test.

The Toyota Camry would have made the list, the Institute said, if it had received the highest rating in rear crash protection. The Institute said the Camry's seats and head restraints were rated marginal for protection against whiplash injuries.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Insurance industry names safest cars

  1. Closed captioning of: Insurance industry names safest cars

    >> matt, thank you. if you are thinking about buying a new car, the insurance institute for highway safety is out with its list of the safest cars for 2010 , and there are a few big surprises. nbc's tom costello is at a subaru dealership in virginia. tom, good morning.

    >> reporter: hi, meredith. this is one of the surprises. we had subaru come out with five cars that made the grade. they were the forrester, the tribeca, the outback, the impreza and the legacy. and another big surprise, a big carmaker had no cars make the grade. but something changed this time. carmakers had to pass a roof crush test. they're at it again. taking perfectly good cars and suvs and destroying them one after another. to see which 2010 models earned the coveted top safety pick designation from the insurance institute for highway safety . this year, 27 models made the cut, all holding up well in front, side, and rear-impact collisions. and electronic stability control control. but it was this new test that cut the list from 94 top safety picks last year to 27 this year. a new roof strength test.

    >> for a good rating, what we're looking for is a roof that will withstand a force equal to four times that vehicle's weight.

    >> reporter: with 9,000 people dying in rollover crashes each year, the insurance institute wants roofs to be twice as strong as the federal standard.

    >> when a vehicle's roof caves in, there really isn't much room left to protect the occupants.

    >> reporter: in the end, 19 cars and 8 suvs won the top safety pick honors. subaru was the only manufacturer with a winner in all four vehicle classes in which it competes. ford and its volvo unit had six winners. volkswagen audi had five. chrysler earned four as it continues to improve its quality, while the nissan cube and the kia soul also joined the list. one big surprise -- not a single toyota or lexus model made the cut this year. the institute says toyota 's cars did pass the crash tests --

    >> but the seats and head restraints don't offer good protection in rear impacts. if it upgraded those restraints, the toyota camry would be a top safety pick.

    >> reporter: in a statement, toyota insists all toyota vehicles meet or exceed federal safety standards for frontal and side impact, roof crush resistance and rollover protection. meanwhile, one last piece of advice --

    >> size does still matter. the smallest vehicles on our list aren't going to protect you as well as the largest ones.

    >> reporter: toyota lexus wasn't the only manufacturer to be shut out this year, but they are, of course, the biggest. here's another important note. last year, the honda accord was a top safety pick. not this year. honda tells nbc news, "our vehicles continue to provide the same high level of real-world safety as they did before the testing change," but some important information, more of it on our website and also at the insurance institute for highway safety . meredith, back to you.

    >> tom costello, thank you very much.

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