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IIHS Top Safety Picks- Why is BMW missing?

Interesting | November 20th, 2009 by 13
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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a press release last night announcing 2010’s Top Safety Picks. Several auto makers made the list, but to …

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a press release last night announcing 2010’s Top Safety Picks. Several auto makers made the list, but to our surprise and many others, BMW was absent from this list. Along with BMW, Toyota dropped from the top pick list as well.

As expected, the top created some controversy and confusion. Several automobile publications rushed to publish their article pointing out not necessarily the winners, but rather the companies that didn’t make the list.

A natural question arises: why is BMW missing from this list? This is actually because no BMWs were tested for the new IIHS roof-crush test (yet). In February of this year, the IIHS surprised the industry by announcing a new roof-crush test which caused some vehicles (11 Toyotas, most notably) to drop from the TSP listing. More on the test from the IIHS website:

IIHS Top Safety Picks  Why is BMW missing?

“In the Institute’s roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 side of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating, the roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle’s weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. This is called a strength-to-weight ratio. For an acceptable rating, the minimum required strength-to-weight ratio is 3.25. A marginal rating value is 2.5. Anything lower than that is poor.

The Institute’s test method is the same one that has been used for testing under the federal roof strength regulation since 1973, but with much higher requirements. Vehicles only need a strength-to-weight ratio of 1.5 to meet the federal regulation. While the actual roof strengths of vehicles may surpass this minimum level by a large amount, this information has not been available to consumers. Institute research has found that a vehicle with a roof strength-to-weight ratio of 4.0 has an estimated 50 percent reduction in the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollover crashes compared with the minimum level of 1.5.”

On its website, the IIHS in fact states that, “[A] dynamic test using instrumented dummies would be the gold standard for assessing roof performance in rollovers.” That’s of course what BMW does. While the IIHS performs a static roof-crush test, BMWs are put through simulations of real-world crash circumstances. Moving forward, BMW will also be adding the new IIHS roof-crush test to its own testing protocol.

For the record, here is BMW NA’s official statement on the matter:

Passive safety has always been a design priority for BMW, and BMW products have consistently performed well in both laboratory and real-world crashes. Because no 2010 BMW models were tested for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new rollover rating, no BMW vehicles could qualify for the 2010 round of “Top Safety Picks.” Although no BMW models were tested for the IIHS’s new rollover rating, BMW’s normal testing protocol includes three separate types of rollover tests during product development.

These tests simulate real-life circumstances, such as a vehicle striking a road divider, a vehicle leaving the road sideways, and a vehicle sliding down an embankment. As such, BMW is very confident in the passive rollover protection provided by its vehicles.

BMW Rollover Laboratory

IIHS Roof Strength Testing

BMW 7 Series crashtest

  • Jordan

    i think personally that rollover test with the X6 could have been done better. it should have been done on a higher slope and had the X6 end up on it’s back with at least the front window smashed, something more serious than what it showed. it really didn’t look like anything happened in that last rollover test …. :S

    • Jag

      i think the slope is 40-45 degrees, that’s quite high and rarely met in common driving / accidents. the thing is that the X6 is proved to not easily be rolled over, and once rolled over, it is not much damaged. if everything happened the way you want, there’s only 1 thing to be proved: the X6 is such an unreliable and unsafe vehicle. of course that would never happen.

      • Jordan

        yes it did prove the X6 is very hard to roll and therefore should naturally handle well. however, most accidents never end up like that (rolling onto its side at a slow speed and sliding a short distance). i don’t think what i asked for is unrealistic. the front offset crash and side impact tests virtually write the vehicle off. all i was trying to point out is that this “test” barely proved anything, other than the fact the X6 is hard to roll. i have never seen a vehicle with as little damage as that X6 had in ANY rollover crash and even the ones that don’t roll over, most are damaged far more than this X6.

        any emergency workers on here would probably tell you that the 3rd rollover test BMW shown is highly unrealistic of what would happen in the real world. all im trying to say is it would have been nice to see “BMW Safety Testing” taken a little further.

        i definitely give kudos to BMW for doing this type of testing and showing to the public what they do. I’m a BMW fan and I love the X6.

        • Doug

          That’s true, if it’s not fast enough to roll the car in more likely scenarios, then there’s not enough energy to damage the car when it’s turned over.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508183767 Miles Ransom

    go vw and bmw!

  • Bryce

    I wonder how the carbon-fibre roof of the M3 responds to the pressure test. The metal roofs are allowed to sink 5 inches with 4 times the vehicle’s weight, but I would think that carbon fibre wouldn’t sink at all until there’s enough pressure to break it. I suppose the pillars would still sink the same as any other vehicle, but then they’re testing pillar strength and not roof strength.

    • The Lee

      Pillar strength is roof strength. There’s no real structural integrity to the flat panel on the roof itself. It’s all i the support of the roof. Otherwise the test would simply tell you how badly the roof will dent in a hail storm.

      All of the areas that are effected by these tests are the same areas that are still metal in even the CF-roofed BMWs.

    • Doug

      It’s just the top roof panel though, and it’s not stressing the panel in the way that CF would give benefits. Maybe the extra tensile strength cold help distribute the load, unless the roof is mounted via bolts and the stress is not evenly distributed.

      I’ve heard that CF has superior crush characteristics than steel, when a part is constructed with that in mind. It probably crushes at the point of impact, retaining the structural integrity of the part, rather than bending/crumpling the steel member into a different shape which has different structural characteristics.

  • Bryce

    I guess I should have watched the videos before posting. Still, I wonder how the carbon fibre-roof affects the strength of the vehicle’s roof. Also, after watching these videos I’m pretty sure I’d feel safer driving a Bimmer than some of the other cars that made the list.

    Another reason to never own a Kia.

  • http://myspace.com/sequoyahprepschool hboyd328

    Its just nice to know that at least when driving a BMW, you have a greater chance of being able to outmaneuver a potential accident… A lot better than having an accident, IMO. :)

  • Max

    Do you guys don`t understand that this press release is paid by “someone”?
    Lets make an experiment – frontal crash Kia Soul vs. 3 series.
    Anyone has idea who will survive?!!

  • X5 SoB

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is funded by the Insurance industry, and as such, is biased. They are always performing tests that cars will consistently fail, since most cars are engineered to comply with Federal standards, not the IIHS. They do this in order to justify insurance companies charging higher rates, so doing something like not testing BMWs is not suprising. Bunch of assholes, IMO. :(

  • Albert Jeong

    As of 2011/11/9, still none of BMWs conducted roof test other than 5 and 3 series. The new 5 got Good but, the 3 series only got average… Can you guess what their standard on the older BMW’s on their own testing facility was?  I am pretty sure that BMW wasn’t sure of getting a Good on the roof tests on the older BMWs. That is why they didn’t ask IIHS for the tests.  Mercedes and Audi still have 4 top safety picks. What a shame BMW. http://www.iihs.org/ratings/  http://www.iihs.org/ratings/ratingsbyseries.aspx?id=458

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