Safest Cars in the World

By: Gregory Smyth

Safety has to be one of the top priorities for anyone contemplating to buy a car. But the news about cars lately is related with driving fast than with driving safely. Only five cars on the market boasts of perfect crash-test scores, but 14 cars on the market possess top speeds of 202 mph or higher. Constructing safe cars instead of flashy ones might be a too poor choice to make business sense.

As if to high lighten the mutual exclusivity of fun and safety, no sports cars enter the list of the safest cars on the market. All five cars featured in the list are sedans, comprising Ford Motor's (nyse: F - news - people ) Crown Victoria, a vehicle often brought out as a taxi and close in spirit to a hearse, and two other dead weights derived from it, Mercury's Grand Marquis and the Lincoln Town Car .

The safest cars don't exactly appeal to a common buyer, and automakers don't seem to have any immediate plans to unleash more of them to market. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) crash-test scores for 2006-model cars (the model year is underway) have shown five cars with perfect marks. Among the 2005-model cars, the same five cars from 2006, were the only ones in 2005 to yield perfect scores.

Quite expectedly, there is a Volvo, the S80 sedan, included in the five safest cars. But one may wonder why Volvo is the only automaker that customers naturally link with safety, despite the efforts of Honda Motor (nyse: HMC - news - people) and DaimlerChrysler's (nyse: DCX - news - people) Mercedes-Benz subsidiary to popularize heavily their cars' safety features.

Two years back, Volvo invited journalists to a tour of its Car Safety Center in Gothenburg, Sweden. The program had a crash-test demonstration--a simulation of what takes place when a driver runs a red light and strikes the car with the right of way. A Volvo XC90 SUV, going 30 mph, crashed into the driver's door of a Volvo S40 sedan as it rolled forward at 15 mph. After some time, journalists investigated the crash up close. The airbags were steaming and the XC90's interior emanated the horrifying smell of an electrical fire.

But Volvo executives claimed that had a person been in the S40, protected by side airbags and curtains, he or she would perhaps have experienced bruises or a fractured rib to think of the worst, but likely would not have been hospitalized. At that moment, the danger of constructing cars with below-average safety was clearly known to the observers.

There are lots of possibilities in the auto business for companies other than Volvo to consider safety a top selling point. But only a few are performing like that. Four of the five cars in the list are created by Ford and its subsidiaries; one is a Honda, from its luxury Acura division, included at that list.

All vehicles enlisted showed the highest rating (five stars) in each crash-test category. The cars included were those NHTSA tested in each of its available methods: two frontal-impact tests, two side-impact tests and a rollover-resistance test. To be fair, the list's shortness can be partly attributed to the fact that NHTSA does not crash-test every car on the market, nor does it involve each car it tests through each test it possess.

It tries to test a broad range of vehicles, but agrees it does not have enough resources to do every one. The cars not tested in 2005 include Chevrolet's Corvette from General Motors (NYSE: GM - news - people), the Phaeton from Volkswagen and Audi's A6. Even though this is the case, the reality is that, safety is not currently a top requirement for most car manufacturers around the world.

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