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Toyota models trail in crash-safety study; Honda, Subaru at Top

Toyota Motor Corp., whose vehicles earn top marks for buyer satisfaction, has more models than any other automaker ranked at the bottom of a crash-protection study.

Toyota Motor Corp. and its Lexus division accounted for nine of 16 vehicles with “acceptable,” “marginal” or “poor” rear- impact protection, lowering their overall rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said today. Models included the Toyota Camry and the Lexus GS 350. Honda Motor Co., including its Acura division, and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Subaru each placed three vehicles among the 13 designated in the study as a “top safety pick.” Toyota's performance in the crash-safety study contrasts with its industry-leading ranking on the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index. The Toyota City, Japan- based company finished atop other automakers for the second year in a row in 2006. Vehicles earn the insurance institute's top safety ranking based on tests of front-, rear- and side-collision protection. Vehicles had to have electronic stability control as an optional or standard feature to be considered for the top spot this year. “The idea of tightening the criteria for the award is to encourage more vehicle safety improvements,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Arlington, Virginia-based institute. A “poor” grade predicts serious or possibly fatal injuries in front-end and side collision tests performed at 40 miles an hour, while a “good” rating predicts a lower risk of serious injury, said Russ Rader, an institute spokesman. Passengers in vehicles with “poor” rear-collision ratings are “much more likely” to sustain neck injuries compared with people riding in “good” vehicles, Rader said. (Bloomberg)