Crash testing seems pretty damn important, but some vehicles just never make it to the independent smashing science lab here in the U.S. That includes all Jaguar, Porsche and Land Rover vehicles currently on sale.
Nearly a half-million passenger cars and SUVs sold each year have not been crash-test rated by the two main organizations that conduct independent assessments: the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which uses a star rating system, and the insurance industry-backed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which rates vehicles from Poor to Good.
Most of the vehicles without ratings are low-volume models, sports cars, luxury vehicles, or large vans. The expense is too great for NHTSA and the IIHS to test all vehicles, so choices are made based on car sales volume and testing budgets. Some untested models are new or redesigned and merely waiting in line to be evaluated. About 97 percent of all new vehicles sold are crash-test rated by one or both of the independent organizations.
That doesn’t mean these vehicles have never been crash-tested. Every car available for sale in the U.S. must kiss the stationary barrier at speed, but those tests are performed internally by the automakers; the information does not have to be made public. All vehicles must meet minimum federal safety standards before hitting dealer lots. Automakers certify their cars as roadworthy for regulators using internal crash-test data, however.
So why aren’t some vehicles tested? Well newer models like the Cadillac CT4 will most likely be tested in the future. Other vehicles that have been on sale for years, like the Nissan 370Z, Toyota Sequoia and Mazda MX-5 Miata, haven’t been tested because their relatively low sales numbers don’t rationalize the cost of testing. From CR:
NHTSA says it provides crash-test ratings for 85 percent of new vehicle models, and the IIHS has crash-tested over 80 percent of mainstream vehicle models—which represents more than 97 percent of all passenger vehicles sold. Some vehicles that have not been crash-tested have been evaluated for child car seat fit, headlight visibility, rollover risk, or advanced safety features.
A NHTSA spokeswoman told CR that the agency chooses vehicles “predicted to have high sales volume, structural or restraint design changes compared to the previous year, and/or improved safety equipment,” and that some vehicles are not tested because of budgetary restrictions. Similarly, Rader told CR that the IIHS typically does not test high-end vehicles, sports cars, or large SUVs. “We try to stay in the heart of the consumer market,” he said.
Other vehicles sell fairly well, like the Lexus GX, but are too expensive and low volume to justify the price of a crash test. If you want to buy a vehicle that hasn’t been independently crash tested, CR recommends at least checking out driver fatality rates and insurance claim losses by make and model, available on the IIHS website.