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Agency prepares crash tests for 2012 model vehicles
shoppers compare different models according to their appearance, performance, fuel efficiency and often their safety records. Knowing how a car will perform in a crash or rollover can be a powerful sales incentive on a showroom floor crowded with gleaming new models.
For three decades, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has provided guidance on accident safety through its five-star safety ratings program. Those government testers are now preparing to check the latest fleet of vehicles to reach American roads, looking at everything from the Acura TL to the Volvo S60 and all the Mazdas and Mitsubishis in between.
The results can save lives - and impact vehicle lease
rates - so the NHTSA will examine a broad swath of 2012 models totalling 74 automobiles, including 42 passenger cars, 22 sport utility vehicles, two vans and eight pickups.
Drivers of every type can find their favorite cars on the list, which includes recent launches like the Chrysler 300 and Fiat 500, battery-powered models including the Coda electric car and Toyota Prius v, luxury models like the BMW 328i and Cadillac CTS, and market favorites like the Honda Civic, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Impala and Subaru Legacy.
In addition, the agency has expanded its program this year to include new technologies that can help drivers avoid accidents before they happen. The NHTSA will recommend the most effective "crash avoidance" systems by listing 68 automobiles equipped with either lane departure warning (12 models), forward collision warning (18 models), or both (38 models).
The number of vehicles with these crash-avoidance systems has been rising fast, up from just 45 cars offering the technologies last year. By broadening the scope of the safety ranking, the agency hopes to change drivers' focus from crash survivability to crash avoidance, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said.
To test the effectiveness of the lane-departure and forward-collision systems, NHTSA inspectors will examine 13 vehicles equipped with the systems. They include passenger cars from BMW, Dodge, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, and SUVs from Acura, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz.
"Our five-star ratings program is a critical resource to help consumers make the best possible decisions about the cars they want to buy," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "By revamping the tests and creating a more rigorous program last year, we raised the bar on safety for all vehicle manufacturers. People should remember: More stars, safer cars."
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