Product Liability

IIHS puts first 12 vehicles through new roof crush rating system

In February, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety raised the bar on the auto industry, announcing that it would require automobiles to withstand 4 times their own weight in a static roof crush test to qualify as contenders for the institute’s highest vehicle safety ranking. The test, also known as strength-to-weight ratio, has made the IIHS “Top Safety Pick” rating a little harder to earn. But that is good news for the consumer, as the auto industry covets good IIHS grades. Car manufacturers generally will work harder and make the improvements they need to make in order to earn higher IIHS rankings.

Automobile manufacturers wear their top IIHS rating as a badge of honor, and rightfully so. What auto manufacturer wouldn’t be proud that one of its popular models exceeded government ratings for roof crush strength by up to two and a half times?

The IIHS recently put 12 small sport utility vehicles to the test using its new and improved roof crush standards. Topping the list are the Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester, Honda Element, and Jeep Patriot. All received the highest IIHS rating “Good.”

Next on the list and receiving the “Acceptable” grade were the Suzuki Grand Vitara, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Rav4, Nissan Rogue, and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Car manufacturers who receive low IIHS rankings also receive a little more incentive to improve their vehicle’s safety features. Low safety ratings amount to bad advertising, and that affects the bottom line. IIHS safety rankings of “marginal” (Honda CR-V and Ford Escape) and “poor” (Kia Sportage) mean that those vehicles won’t make it onto any safety minded car shopper’s short list.

IIHS studies have shown that auto roofs have been getting stronger over the past few years, a trend that the institute attributes partly to the structural improvements auto companies have made while pursuing better IIHS front and side crash test results. The institute says that strong front and side support “help prevent intrusion in [rollover] crashes and also help hold up the roof.”

“It’s not surprising that Volkswagen and Subaru earn good ratings in our new roof test because these automakers were among the first to ace our front and side tests,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said.