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Carmakers respond to IIHS head restraint tests

The 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer and 2005 Mitsubishi Galant were tested by IIHS because these vehicles received a good and acceptable rating, respectively, in IIHS’s static evaluation of head restraints.  Lancer and Galant, like every vehicle we sell, meet or exceed all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.  In addition, Galant recently received IIHS’s highest rating in side-impact testing and Lancer has been an IIHS “Best Pick” from 2002-2004.

In this new dynamic head restraint test by IIHS, the Institute has made the injury rating criteria more severe.  Mitsubishi Motors’ engineers are currently evaluating these IIHS test results and will use this information to help in designing future vehicles, as we continually strive to improve the safety performance of all our passenger cars and trucks.  Bottom line, occupant safety has always and continues to be of primary importance to Mitsubishi Motors.

At Audi safety is a primary concern. The Audi A6’s ratings of “good” and “acceptable” show that we are heading in the right direction.

We were disappointed with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s evaluation of the Audi A4 head restraints. We can tell you without equivocation that these seats have been developed to comply with all applicable safety standards, and in real world accident performance the Audi A4 has delivered an exemplary safety record. As a matter of fact, in real-world situations, the Audi A4/S4 and the Audi A6 have proven to be among the safest cars in their segments according to the 2003 Highway Loss Data Institute Report that summarizes insurance loss experience from actual auto accidents.

Critical from our perspective is the combination of advanced technologies in all our models which not only help a car’s occupants in the event of an accident, but which can also help the driver avoid an accident in the first place. This is why Audi vehicles are available with technologies such as quattro® all-wheel drive or FrontTrak® front wheel drive with electronic traction control; anti-lock brakes, and electronic stabilization program, among others. Audi’s unique combination of advanced active and passive safety technology has resulted in vehicles that have been proven extremely safe where it counts most, and that is in the hands of our drivers and passengers.

Volvo Whiplash Protection Seat (WHIPS) is a culmination of over 75 years of safety engineering and real world safety research.   Volvo's holistic safety philosophy and state of the art research center develop safety systems that help protect lives.  Our head restraint and WHIPS protection system are designed to help reduce certain rear impact injuries. WHIPS protection is fact that has been proven in real world accident research.

WHIPS was first introduced in 1998 on Volvo's flagship S80. Today, all models have this whiplash protection system for front occupants.

We are pleased that IIHS has given our system the highest rating.

Jaguar is pleased to learn that its X-TYPE and S-TYPE sedans are awarded the highest 'GOOD' rating for their static head restraint geometry, which is acknowledged by the IIHS as the primary attribute for effective head restraint performance.

This is in line with expectations as all Jaguar vehicles are designed to meet or exceed current global safety legislation and the more stringent Ford Motor Company internal safety test requirements.

Additionally, we are pleased that the IIHS recognizes the S-TYPE's positive performance in both the static and dynamic tests.

Kia Motors America, Inc. (KMA) appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) test results on head restraints for the 2004 Kia Optima, Spectra and Amanti. 

While both the Amanti and Spectra received “acceptable” overall ratings, KMA is disappointed with the Institute’s “poor” grade on its Optima sedan, and we don’t feel the test is an accurate reflection of the "real world" head protection offered by the vehicle.  The tests conducted by the IIHS use test protocols that may not factor in specific features of some of the head restraints on Kia vehicles.  For example, the head restraints on the Optima EX have a tilt feature to protect front seat occupants in the event of a rear-end collision.  And, the Kia Amanti offers standard active front head restraints, designed to automatically adjust to protect occupants as well. 

The Kia Optima meets or exceeds all U.S. government safety standards and has achieved a four-star safety rating (out of a possible five) from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration‘s NCAP tests for the frontal crash test on both the driver and right passenger seating positions, and for the side impact crash test for both the front and rear seating positions. In addition, the Kia Optima received the government’s five star rating for safety for rollover resistance.

The Institute is a non-profit organization funded by the auto insurance industry and is not a government agency. 

We want to assure our customers that they do not have to compromise safety for value.  At Kia, we offer both.

All Chrysler Group products meet or exceed the applicable safety standards for head restraint performance established by the Federal Government.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has devised a new test and rating system for head restraints, and we are assessing the potential impact of the test results on our future products.

Ford Motor Company designs its head restraints to provide a maximum amount of protection for vehicle occupants. Our head restraints perform well not only in the company's stringent crash tests, but also in the real world.

We're committed to continuous improvement and we recognize the importance of doing well in these tests. We have put a great deal of emphasis in further improving occupant protection in a variety of accidents. 

We understand that head restraint tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are new, and somewhat unpredictable and test-to-test variability can influence the results.  Therefore this test may not be reflective of real world performance.

The New Beetle’s IIHS ratings of “good” and “acceptable” are encouraging from a directional point of view. Volkswagen of America, Inc. respects the relevance of simulated safety testing in a controlled setting by independent groups such as the IIHS, which is why we regularly conduct our own rigorous tests and work proactively with the IIHS to collect as much safety information as possible. 

However, Volkswagen understands that real accidents—the ultimate safety tests—never occur in a testing facility. That is why we are driven by field experience in our safety developments. For this reason, Volkswagen is encouraged to know that in real-world accidents the New Beetle and other Volkswagen models have consistently proven to be among the safest cars in their segments, according to the 2003 Highway Loss Data Institute Report that summarizes insurance loss experience from actual automotive accidents.

The BMW Group respects and appreciates the work of the IIHS to promote auto safety.  As always, we cooperated with the Institute and participated in a very good exchange of ideas.  Based on the Institute’s own published information, the study is a seat evaluation criteria rather than injury likelihood criteria and therefore it is not intended to establish the actual probability of injury.  BMW welcomes the seat evaluation information and appreciates the Institute’s encouragement to continuously improve.  

The findings of the scientific community, combined with input from our own extensive research, form the basis for a better understanding of areas we can make improvements.  For example, the 3-Series just tested by the Institute will be replaced by a new model next spring (go to for details) and this new model has many safety refinements compared to the 3-Series the Institute tested. Likewise, the 5-Series results show that our optional active head restraints system provides improved performance and we are continuously working to make our advanced crashworthiness systems better and better.

The Only Safe Crash is No Crash
Since rear impacts occur all too frequently, BMW offers the only cars in North America with “two-stage adaptive brake lamps” whereby the brake lamp lit area gets bigger during panic braking.  Launched on our new 5 Series, adaptive brake lamps alert following drivers to react faster and prevent a rear impact.  This additional warning mode coming on the new 3 Series is just one small part of our intensified focus on “crash avoidance via active safety.”  In addition to the terrible pain and suffering, rear impacts are a huge cost for consumers and the IIHS member companies.  No crash is the best solution. 

BMW pioneered the recently acclaimed Electronic Stability Control (named Dynamic Stability Control on our cars) that has been standard on BMW’s since the 2000 model year and is offered on MINI as well.  The DSC has performed extremely well, and on the new 3 Series includes refinements for even better control and braking in wet weather and on partially slippery surfaces.  Furthering the goal of crash avoidance, we have been accelerating our offering of run-flat tires. Not only do run-flat tires when punctured offer increased stability and control, but they allow the driver to continue the journey up to 3 more hours to get the tire changed in a secure and safe location.  There are other highly sophisticated crash avoidance systems in development and nearing completion that form the basis for our strategy of Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Always Improving
In the past, BMW and MINI vehicles have always been highly rated for safety by the Institute, and we plan to do our part to continue to make that happen to the greatest extent possible.  While improvements to crash protection continue at a fast pace, our accelerated efforts to deliver meaningful crash avoidance features to vehicles and motorcycles demonstrates a safety commitment unparalleled in the industry.

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 three 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 and adopted just a month ago. 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. During occupant restraint or head restraint testing, accurate positioning of the test dummy is critical to achieve meaningful, consistent results. However, 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 was not provided with all the information on the IIHS testing and then asked to comment within a few days. Hyundai still has not been provided with any detailed information regarding how the seating environments of the three models were approximated, nor test films, nor specific test data. Hyundai believes it is unreasonable for the IIHS to conduct such “testing” that is not recognized by governmental regulatory or automotive industry standards organizations, provide insufficient information to us, and then release those results to the public.

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.

General Motors
While the study of whiplash is not fully understood, GM has been a leader in moving head restraints higher and more forward in conjunction with the IIHS guidance on neck protection.   GM also has been a leader in rolling out the self-aligning head restraint, a device that moves the head restraint up and forward dynamically during a rear crash.

People come in all shapes and sizes and are seated in various positions in a vehicle. If the test methods chosen are not reflective of reducing real-world harm, there could be significant potential to cause seat design changes that are directionally wrong.

The results achieved by the Mercedes-Benz E and C-Class, on the new IIHS head restraint test, are based on current vehicle equipment that meet all government performance requirements and are in line with those of the industry. Next year, Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be equipped with all-new active head restraints, which will be standard for the E and C-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz design philosophy has always been a holistic approach to safety. We believe no single test can accurately replicated the real world. Supported by our in-house accident analysis, established in 1969, the development target for Mercedes-Benz vehicles is to provide maximum occupant safety in real world conditions in a variety of crash scenarios.

Integrated vehicle safety is central to our mission in building the safest cars on the road. This approach has guided Mercedes-Benz to introduce a host of safety firsts, including the now-ubiquitous crumple zone, the air bag, anti-lock brake technology (ABS), the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), the Brake-Assist (BAS) and our preventative safety system PRE-SAFE.

Suzuki supports the development of meaningful vehicle safety test procedures, however, please not, that the IIHS information is preliminary in nature. First, in 2001 IIHS commented to NHTSA that it was premature to adopt dynamic tests for automotive head restraints. IIHS noted several shortcomings with available neck injury criteria, test dummies, and test procedures. The IIHS also re-emphasized that its focus had been, and continued to be, on the geometry of the head restraints – for which Suzuki had been rated by the IIHS as “Good” and “Acceptable.” Second, the lack of available neck injury criteria continues to be a serious shortcoming. You will note that IIHS is not using neck injury criteria to classify the head restraints. Instead, IIHS is simply dividing head restraints into groups based on relative ranking, but does not relate this to neck injury criteria. This is a significant departure from other occupant safety ratings. Third, when IIHS approached Suzuki to procure seats for this program, IIHS described its program as “its first dynamic evaluation” program in apparent recognition of the preliminary and developmental nature of the program.

Suzuki supports the IIHS effort to develop and refine its evaluation program. Given the lack of neck injury criteria and early stage development of test protocol development, however, Suzuki feels that the IIHS should wait to classify head restraint dynamic performance as “Good,” “Acceptable,” and so on, until those shortcomings are eliminated and vehicles can be fairly evaluated and ranked against one another.

It is important that your viewers know that the Suzuki Verona, Aerio, and Forenza models are safe, reliable vehicles that comply with all federal vehicle crash test standards. In addition, it is important to note that before IIHS evaluated any head restraint under these new dynamic conditions, they rated the geometry of the head restraints of these cars as “Good” or “Acceptable.”

Suzuki is always willing to take into consideration any new information that could lead to meaningful, real-world improvements that provide our customers with greater value.  You can be assured that we are studying these and all IIHS evaluation results with these objectives in mind.

Subaru is pleased to respond to your request for the company’s view on the IIHS Head Restraint Tests and, in particular, the performance of Subaru seats. Just last week, we received final rating information from the IIHS on the three types of Subaru seats that were dynamically tested. IIHS also provided the final rating criteria information that will be used, including how geometric and dynamic test results will be combined.

Subaru believes that the dynamic test developed by IIHS is a demanding one.  However, this type of test is beneficial to understand the advantages of active head restraints and to inform consumers of their additional safety benefits.

While rarely life-threatening, “whiplash” is a safety issue of concern to consumers. More than five years ago, Subaru engineering began development of designs to reduce the frequency and severity of neck injuries. This involved more than just the addition of a head restraint that pivots and moves upward and forward in a rear impact to help maintain head, neck and torso alignment.  Subaru combined this head restraint technology with better management by the vehicle structure of the crash pulse, a seat back structure that allows the torso to move backward into the seat back without obstruction, seat comfort, and other features.

Today, nearly all Subaru vehicles have front seats with one of the most advanced features for “whiplash” injury reduction - active head restraints. And in the near future, the availability of active head restraints will be further expanded on Subaru vehicles. Therefore, Subaru is pleased that in the demanding IIHS dynamic test utilizing the most advanced rear-impact dummy (BioRID), Subaru seats with active head restraints received the highest (“Good”) or next highest (“Acceptable”) IIHS ratings. The IIHS results support our efforts and commitment to providing advanced occupant protection to an injury of common concern. Although there are no government regulations requiring such seats and head restraints, Subaru makes this commitment a priority.

Subaru maintains a resolute passion to develop and implement vehicle features that benefit our owners.  In the area of head restraints, we hope to continue to benefit from the work of the IIHS and further develop areas of cooperation with similar organizations throughout the world.

American Honda strives to provide maximum safety protection for all of its vehicles.

Honda Research and Development performs extensive safety research involving the design and construction of vehicle head restraints and believes that the test method used by IIHS does not accurately reflect the majority of real world collisions.

The new IIHS seat sled test is a very sever test and does not take into account any other structure designed into the vehicle to help reduce the incidence of next injury.

Honda and Acura vehicles have an outstanding safety record and comprise the largest number of 5 Star safety rated vehicles of any manufacturer.

Based on our internal test results we believe that our seats help reduce the chance of injury and we also believe our vehicles perform reasonably well in real world conditions.

We continually research new ways to enhance vehicle safety and are committed to continuously upgrading our designs with each new vehicle generation. As a result, recent changes to seat geometry in several Honda and Acura models, as well as the structure of the vehicle themselves, offer enhanced protection in rear end collisions.