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Honda and Toyota shine in side impacts
US crash tests give thumbs-up to Accord and Camry but others struggle
20 Apr 2004
By BRUCE NEWTON
US versions of several popular mid-size cars sold in Australia have not fared well in crash testing designed to measure their ability to stand up to side impacts by pick-up trucks and SUVs.
The tests, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), simulates a full-size pick-up truck or SUV 'T-boning' the car at 31mph (50km/h).
The IIHS gave only the left-hand drive US-built Toyota Camry and Honda Accord with optional side airbags a good rating, which means the likelihood of serious injuries would be low.
The Australian Toyota Camry is built in Melbourne and our V6 Accord in Thailand.
That was the end of the good news, however, with 12 cars including the Camry and Accord without aide airbags rated as poor.
The US-built Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata and its close relation the Kia Optima also fell into the poor category.
The US-built Mitsubishi Galant also copped a poor rating. Although not sold in Australia, it will form the basis of the next generation Magna on sale here from 2005.
The Mazda6 and Galant were tested without side airbags because the companies were not willing to reimburse IIHS for the optional feature.
The test results come at a time when US regulators and car-makers are moving to change the front-end designs of trucks and SUVs to make them
less lethal to smaller passenger cars in crashes.
The Camry and Accords that scored well have side curtain bags that deploy from the roof down, which protect heads, plus torso airbags for front seat occupants. Other cars with airbags that protected less of the passengers meant poorer results.
Side impacts are the second most common fatal type of crash after front crashes. The IIHS says 9600 people were killed in the US in side crashes in 2002, the last year for which data is available.
Accident research by the IIHS shows side airbags with head protection reduce deaths by 45 per cent among drivers of cars struck on the driver side.
The National Highway Safety Administration is developing its own updated side-impact test, which would inevitably result in design changes to both cars and light trucks, as well as forcing some automakers to make side airbags standard equipment.
The US car industry, trying to head off regulation, has agreed to voluntary design changes for pick-ups and SUVs, making them more compatible with passenger cars by 2008.
At least 50 per cent of vehicles will be designed for greater compatibility by 2007. Car-makers say the design changes alone should reduce side-impact crash fatalities by 28 per cent.
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