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Hyundai, Kia, VW top insurers’ safety list

66 vehicles get highest award, setting a record

Hyundai said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety award it got for its Sonata (above) was particularly sweet; the midsize car also received the top score of five stars in the government’s crash test program. Hyundai said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety award it got for its Sonata (above) was particularly sweet; the midsize car also received the top score of five stars in the government’s crash test program. (Consumer Reports)
By Ken Thomas
Associated Press / December 22, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognized 66 vehicles today with its “top safety pick award’’ for the 2011 model year, the most ever awarded by the group. The number was more than double the 27 vehicles selected last year.

Hyundai Motor Corp. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp., along with Volkswagen AG and its Audi brand, received the most awards with nine, followed by eight awards apiece for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Toyota Motor Corp.

The awards, used in advertising to attract car buyers, bolster Hyundai and Volkswagen as they attempt to enlarge their footholds in the United States.

Hyundai’s Genesis sedan, Sonata midsize car, and Santa Fe and Tucson sport utility vehicles picked up awards.

Kia was recognized for the Optima midsize car, the Forte and Soul small cars, and the Sorento and Sportage SUVs.

Volkswagen won plaudits for the Jetta and Jetta SportWagen, the Golf and GTI small cars, and the Touareg and Tiguan SUVs.

Audi’s A3 and A4 sedans and Q5 SUV also made the list.

Subaru and Chrysler received five awards apiece; Volvo and Mercedes had four. Subaru was the only automaker to win awards in every vehicle category in which it competes. Nissan and Honda had two awards each, and Mitsubishi and BMW had one.

Hyundai said the award was particularly sweet for the Sonata, which also received the top score of five stars in the government’s crash test program. The combination put Sonata “in a safety position unsurpassed in the industry,’’ said John Krafcik, chief executive of Hyundai Motor America.

Mark Barnes, Volkswagen of America’s chief operating officer, said the recognition for VW was a “testament to our commitment to engineering safe vehicles.’’

GM’s winners include the Chevrolet Malibu, Cruze, and Equinox; Cadillac CTS and SRX; Buick LaCrosse and Regal and GMC Terrain. Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, said the award would build on “the already strong global safety reputation of the Cruze.’’

Ford’s picks include the Ford Taurus, Fusion, Fiesta, Explorer, and Flex, plus the Lincoln MKS, MKZ, and MKT. Ford vice president Sue Cischke said the Explorer, which arrived at showrooms this month, offered a good example of the company’s safety improvements, including technology that helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle along tough curves.

Toyota, which has grappled with several high-profile recalls during the past year, scored with the Toyota Avalon, Corolla, Sienna, Highlander, and Venza; Lexus RX; and Scion tC and xB.

Toyota said its eight safety picks were “reflective of our ongoing commitment to developing safe and reliable vehicles for our customers.’’

The vehicles were chosen for protection in front, side, and rear crash tests.

To qualify for the award, the Virginia-based insurance industry group also requires the vehicles to have antirollover electronic stability controls, or ESC, and receive top scores in roof strength tests.

The institute’s president, Adrian Lund, credited automakers for “quickly rising to meet the more challenging criteria for ‘Top Safety Pick.’ ’’ He said several automakers have requested tests for models coming out next year, and predicted more winners.