When an insurmountable high bar is put forth, automotive structural engineers from across the globe moved heaven and earth to exceed it! Wayne Gerdes – CleanMPG – Dec. 13, 2015 On Thursday the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a release telling the world how far the automotive universe has changed in just a few short years. Namely not only have new cars become structurally far more crash worthy but that the new accident avoidance systems being incorporated are moving the bar to a whole new level. The institute praised Toyota, Honda, VW/Audi, Subaru and Volvo for their inclusion of the latest accident avoidance and/or collision mitigation systems on the latest offering. Here is that story. 48 vehicles now meet even tougher crash test criteria for 2016 to take home the IIHS's Top Safety Pick+ award by achieving the best “Good” ratings in all five IIHS crashworthiness evaluations and an advanced or higher rating for front crash prevention. The baseline requirements for both awards are good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a standard or optional front crash prevention system. The 48 winners of the "plus" award have a superior- or advanced-rated front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities. These vehicles must stop or slow down without driver intervention before hitting a target in tests at 12 mph, 25 mph or both. Models with a basic-rated front crash prevention system, which typically only issues a warning and doesn't brake, qualify for Top Safety Pick. Adrian Lund, IIHS President: The IIHS instituted the Top Safety Pick rating during the 2006 model year to help consumers choose vehicles with the best safety performance. The Top Safety Pick+ rating was introduced in 2012 to recognize vehicles that offer an advanced level of safety albeit less stringent requirements than today’s demanding crash test regimens. Last year when IIHS announced the initial winners of the 2015 awards with the lesser standards, 33 models qualified for Top Safety Pick+ and 38 qualified for Top Safety Pick. The ranks then grew to 51 Top Safety Pick+ and 48 Top Safety Pick winners before years end. The 2016 winner's circle includes some redesigned models with improved frontal crash protection and autobrake features, which help to prevent or mitigate certain frontal crashes. 2016 Nissan Maxima An IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award winner The 2016 Nissan Maxima and Volkswagen Passat, for example, earn good ratings in the small overlap front test, while earlier models were rated acceptable. Nissan also improved occupant protection in rear crashes and rollovers, boosting the Maxima's head restraints and seats rating from marginal to good and its roof strength rating from acceptable to good. The Maxima's optional front crash prevention system is rated superior, and the Passat's is rated advanced. Both midsize cars earn the plus award. The 2016 Scion iA is rated good in the small overlap front test and is the first low-priced B-segment model with standard autobrake. 2016 Scion iA Only IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award winner in the B-Segment thanks to std. accident avoidance equipment. Toyota added autobrake to the Avalon, a large family car, and the RAV4, a small SUV, to qualify for Top Safety Pick+. Both are rated superior for front crash prevention. In the award count, Toyota leads manufacturers with nine 2016 Top Safety Pick+ award winners, while Honda picks up eight Top Safety Pick+ awards. Volkswagen/Audi with their much smaller product lineup has seven plus-award winners. Six Subaru models qualify for Top Safety Pick+. The Chrysler 200 is the only domestic model to qualify for a 2016 Top Safety Pick+ award. One other vehicle from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Fiat 500X, earns the Institute's highest award for 2016. Notice the dichotomy. 1 domestic among the entire universe of domestic automobiles – the Big three account for approximately 45.1 percent of the U.S. market share in November – and just one of their automobiles or 2.1 percent of the entire U.S. lineup made the cut? It is a damn shame and embarrassment to see this while 9 Toyota's and 8 Honda’s did – 35.4 percent of the award winners while encompassing just 23.2 percent of total U.S. sales in November. Even more impressive is the 7 awards earned by VW/Audi and 6 for Subaru. Those two auto makers account for just 3.1 and 3.5 percent of all U.S. sales in November yet accounted for 14.6 and 12.5 percent of the Top Safety Pick+ lineup respectively! 2016 VW Passsat A 2016 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Award Winner. Ford has just one winning model this year, the F-150 SuperCrew, which earns Top Safety Pick. The large pickup is the only Ford with a good small overlap rating. And it is not like the new criteria was thrust upon the OEMs in November. They had the criteria as laisd out by the IIHS for years! Tougher criteria for 2016 A number of previous winners are missing from the new list, including many small and midsize cars. Last year, vehicles with an acceptable small overlap rating could qualify for either award if their other four crashworthiness ratings were good. An available front crash prevention system was required only for Top Safety Pick+ and not Top Safety Pick. More than 20 winners of the 2015 Top Safety Pick award and four plus-award winners did not qualify under the 2016 criteria. The Toyota Highlander and Sienna, for example, are available with an advanced-rated autobrake system, but less-than-good ratings in the small overlap front test put the midsize SUV and minivan out of contention for a 2016 accolade. The pair earned 2015 Top Safety Pick+ awards. Lack of an available front crash prevention system is the issue with several vehicles with good small overlap ratings. The Audi Q3, for example, no longer qualifies for Top Safety Pick because it doesn't have front crash prevention. IIHS wasn't able to test the autobrake systems on the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class), Nissan Rogue and Nissan Sentra in time for this initial release of winners. These Top Safety Picks from last year may or may not be upgraded to Top Safety Pick+ following IIHS tests. The M-Class earned a 2015 Top Safety Pick+ and is rated superior for front crash prevention. The Rogue and Sentra earned 2015 Top Safety Pick awards. Autobrake is the key Among the Top Safety Pick+ winners, there are 31 models with an available superior-rated front crash prevention system and 17 models with an advanced rating. The Scion iA, a Top Safety Pick+ winner, is the first low-priced B-segment car in history with a standard autobrake system. With a base price of about $16,000, the iA is rated advanced for front crash prevention and is the only minicar to earn a 2016 IIHS award. Besides the iA, autobrake is standard on just a few luxury vehicles. These include all Volvo models, some Mercedes-Benz models and the Acura RLX. More automakers are expected to make autobrake standard equipment in the near future under a voluntary agreement being developed by automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and IIHS. All in, a huge thank you to both the IIHS and NHTSA for advancing automotive safety with a continually moving bar and the OEMs for following through on not just safer occupant structures to mitigate injury during a crash test but for awarding those auto manufacturers incorporating collision avoidance systems in their latest offerings. 2016 Honda Civic A 2016 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award winner. The downside to all of this is unfortunately, and most will find out soon enough, few of these automakers are making these advanced systems standard. If the $16,000 Scion iA can incorporate a highly rated Forward Collision Warning (FCW) system, why is Honda Sensing an additional $1,000 on a Civic of any trim? Yes the Civic includes even more advanced features like Radar CC, Forward Collusion Warning, Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation system but again, make the basic Forward Collision Mitigation system standard for all and be done with it. I can bet the uptake on the extra Honda Sensing will be unusually small yet in terms of crash avoidance, it is incalculably valuable. Not to point out any fault with the Top Safety Pick+ awarded 2016 Honda Civic as it is just the car I am driving this week. So what do you think?