IIHS Top Safety Picks- Why is BMW missing?

Interesting | November 20th, 2009 by 13
2009 bmw 7 series crash test video 5842 2

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:

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“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