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Microcars Vs. IIHS

Wednesday, 15 April, 2009

Before this broke on the automotive blogs yesterday, smart USA issued a statement distributed through their e-mail list. It was pretty much boilerplate, but whatever was to come was clearly damning.

The missive announced the creation of a promotional site, Safe and Smart. It offers correspondence from American smart fortwo owners praising their cars for their performance in both avoiding and helping passengers survive traffic collisions. Among the most dramatic of these involves a collision between a hydroplaning “delivery truck” and a fortwo stopped at a traffic signal. The smart was totaled, but its driver walked away. The truck was also totaled, but its driver left the scene in an ambulance. This is not an uncommon theme among the still few stories of potentially catastrophic accidents involving the smart.

About an hour after “A special update from the smart USA team”, the automotive blogs started working the story of an unanticipated series of automobile safety tests held by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They tested, in an approximation of a head on collision:

  • Toyota Yaris vs. Camry
  • Honda Fit (aka Jazz) vs. Accord
  • smart fortwo vs. Mercedes C-class

All the old media, and the old men who run the editorial rooms, are all over this. Not so cleverly ignoring the science of structural dynamics to proclaim “You can’t beat physics.” I find myself wondering why each test was conducted with vehicles from the same corporate parent and where was the test of the Daewoo Matiz (aka Chevrolet Aveo and Pontiac G3) vs. Chevrolet Malibu?

Here’s what you need to know which you may not read elsewhere for reasons which shall become clear:

The actual impact speed of the slow-motion collisions compulsively shown over the next few weeks was eighty miles per hour, or just under one hundred-thirty kilometers per hour. Flippantly characterizing as dangerous the tendency of the smart and Honda Fit (Jazz) to bounce away from the impact zone while cradling its passengers within a cushioned, reinforced shell stands as an interesting editorial choice. In the part of the world where the economy is not based upon cramming as many people into as many individual automobiles as possible, this is regarded as a critically important safety feature. If you are in a collision within a smart fortwo, you may as well be sealed into an eight-foot ball bearing. Although the doors of the smart are likely to open afterward, unlike the ball bearing.

Since General Motors offers a vehicle in the Fit and Yaris class, where is it? This exercise may merely serve as an excuse to arbitrarily raise insurance rates on the smaller cars which Americans are finally discovering. Perhaps it is misdirected nationalism. The absence of the Daewoo and typically conspicuous editorial misdirection makes this effort stink.

One Comment
  1. Chris Smith permalink
    Friday, 1 May, 2009 8:00

    Thank you for your post! I am looking to buy a new car and I’m interested in the Honda Fit. It’s perfect for me, a good price and all the car I will need. When I first saw these crash tests I was taken back, and a bit worried about buying a small car. But after looking at it and thinking about what was being fed to me, I realized that the test was not a factor. In addition, they didn’t crash a chevy aveo, ford focus or dodge caliber. This crash test is a way to scare people from buying the 3 most popular imported small cars. I’ll take my well built, fuel sipping, cost effective Honda Fit…thank you very much.


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