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Companies respond to crash test results

IIHS performs head restraint crash tests.

Ford Motor Company designs its head restraints to enhance protection for vehicle occupants and we’re pleased that IIHS has recognized the Ford Freestyle, Land Rover LR3 and Volvo XC90 as top performers.

Designing effective head restraints requires a balance between providing appropriate height and allowing for appropriate rearward visibility — also a very important safety issue.

We believe that the static measurement evaluation alone is not a sufficient indicator of real-world head restraint performance.  A dynamic evaluation is a better indicator of performance, and when tested dynamically, our head restraints perform well not only in Ford’s stringent internal crash tests, but also in the real world.

In the case of the Ford Ranger, we initially offered a taller head restraint, which IIHS gave its highest safety rating. However, after receiving a significant number of customer complaints about rearward visibility and carefully considering the safety tradeoffs, we redesigned the head restraint to help balance the competing safety issues of height and visibility.  Our internal tests demonstrate that the redesigned head restraint also performs well in dynamic tests, and also meets Ford’s stringent dynamic head restraint requirements with improved visibility for customers.

Seats and head restraints in GM vehicles are engineered to provide high levels of safety for occupants in a broad range of collisions, including low-speed rear crashes such as those simulated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Head restraint design requires a balance of many factors, and the IIHS evaluation criteria are some of the elements taken into account, along with varying occupant sizes, comfort and adjustability. The IIHS test is extremely sensitive to variation and can result in different ratings in the same vehicle, such as when one has leather-covered seats and the other has cloth-covered seats.

The intent of the IIHS test is to evaluate the risk of whiplash, but the mechanisms of whiplash injury are still not proven or understood and the criteria are not validated with real-world injury studies.   --Alan Adler, Manager, Product Safety Communications

All Hyundai motor vehicles sold in the United States comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 202, which specifies requirements for head restraints to reduce the frequency and severity of neck injury in rear-end and other collisions.  The two models tested by IIHS have performed very well in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests conducted at speeds in excess of the requirements of the federal standards, earning either four or five stars (the highest rating) for driver and passenger protection in frontal and side impacts.

Hyundai does not recognize the newly developed IIHS ratings of head restraints as accurate or meaningful.  The IIHS test is a new procedure developed by insurance companies.  It is not a government regulation or a standard.

There are many parts of the IIHS test that can contribute to misleading ratings.  For example, the procedure does not involve testing the seat in a vehicle.  The seat is mounted on a test sled so the results could be quite different from what happens in the real world. The test sled is not the same as an actual vehicle.

The use of a test sled instead of an actual vehicle also means the energy absorption characteristics designed into the rear crumple zone of the vehicle are not taken into account.  This could lead to test results that are not accurate.

Hyundai has taken great care to design its vehicles to comply with federal government safety standards, which have proven applicability and are recognized throughout the industry.  Hyundai is receptive to uniform government safety standards that would further enhance the safety of motor vehicles, but does not view the IIHS test as one of those. --Chris Hosford, Vice President, Corporate Communications

While Kia Motors America commends the Institute's efforts to improve passenger safety, we do have some concerns about this particular test and whether or not it is an accurate reflection of "real world" performance of our vehicles. The IIHS test uses single criteria in a laboratory setting.

All KIA vehicles are developed with seats and head restraint systems designed to protect occupants in a variety of crash scenarios. To date, KMA has never received a claim for injury resulting from an inadequate head restraint system in a rear end collision in these model SUVs.

All KIA models meet or exceed all federal safety regulations and provide an exceptional level of passenger protection. We offer enhanced safety features such as standard equipment on many of our vehicles and continue to research new and improved occupant safety systems. --Ian Beavis, Vice President, Marketing, Kia Motors America, Inc.

Occupant safety is the No. 1 priority of Mitsubishi Motors North America. We design, build and test all of our automobiles with this top of mind.  In the midst of rolling out six new vehicles in 30 months — including an all-new Outlander SUV in fall 2006 — MMNA is incorporating improvements in all of our vehicles to enhance occupant safety and improve the driving experience.

Nissan takes its commitment to product safety and customer satisfaction very seriously.  All Nissan and Infiniti vehicles are designed and engineered to meet or surpass the safety regulations established by the federal government as well as pass our own rigorous internal safety requirements. We design all of our products to provide a high level of occupant safety in a wide range of real-world crashes, including rear-end collisions. Our research has shown that our active head restraint system, which is standard on all vehicles tested, is effective in mitigating whiplash injuries in certain rear-end crashes.

Nissan has received and will study the results from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and will continue to evaluate ways to satisfy our customers.