Safest Car? Ford Wins Again in 2009

November 25, 2009

Safest CarsThe safety ratings are in for the 2009 cars, and Ford came out a big winner. The Consumer Warning Network reported earlier this year that Ford made the safest cars in 2008, so that’s two years in a row on top. Although Ford (and Volvo, owned by Ford) did well in the IIHS ratings (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), however, the Ford Fusion slipped off the list completely.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The IIHS rates cars based on safety in front, side, and rear collisions and on rollover safety. The Institute also looks at factors such as electronic stability controls in cars.

Ford/Volvo had six winners in the four classes of automobiles (large, midsize, small and SUV’s), the Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS, Volvo S80, Volvo C30, Volvo XC60, and Volvo XC90. Obviously, when Ford acquired the Swedish Volvo company, it bought itself a new safety reputation.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, released its own 2009 ratings based on highway crash tests. Of the top 5 “safe” vehicles, Volvo’s XC90 made the list, as did the Audi Q7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn Vue and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

There is, however, one curious thing about these N.H.T.S. ratings. Every one of them is an SUV. None of them are noted for having good gas mileage. Indeed, some (the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes M-Class) are downright gas guzzlers. SUV’s are usually built on truck frames and are heavier than other vehicles, so it should not be surprising that they do better in crash tests (except rollovers).

There’s more to safety than just a heavy frame. Using that standard alone, the safest vehicle on the road should be the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank. With 70 tons of steel, its crash tests would be over the top with hardly a dent after even a head-on collision. Of course, your M1A2 will only get you 2 gallons per mile on its 500 gallon gas tank, so you’ll spend a lot of time and money at the pump! It does, however, go from zero to 20 mph in only 7.2 seconds, so buckle up.

This illustrates the problem with using safety tests as the most important factor in buying a car. Heavier is safer, but you have to strike a balance between what constitutes perfect safety and what is good for your pocketbook and the environment. Look for extra safety features like bracing at key points in the car, anti-sway devices in vehicles that are used for towing, anti-lock brakes, and other similar devices that help increase safety without simply putting you behind a truck that looks like a car.