WASHINGTON — Ford, Subaru and Volkswagen sit atop the insurance industry's annual list of the safest new vehicles, according to a closely watched assessment used by car companies to lure safety-conscious consumers to showrooms.
The Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded its "top safety pick" on Wednesday to 19 passenger cars and eight sport utility vehicles for the 2010 model year. The institute substantially reduced the number of awards compared with 2009 because of tougher requirements for roof strength.
Ford Motor Co. and its Volvo unit received the most awards with six, followed by five awards apiece for Japanese automaker Subaru and German automaker Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit.
Chrysler Group LLC received four awards, followed by two each for Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co.
Toyota Motor Corp., BMW AG, Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. were shut out in the annual IIHS review.
Subaru, which has bucked the brutal U.S. sales market with a 13 percent increase during the first 10 months of 2009, attributed its safety success to a unique engine design that sits low in the vehicle chassis and moves down and under occupants in a frontal collision.
The vehicles are selected for best protecting motorists in front, side and rear crash tests based on institute evaluations during the year. The vehicles are required to have electronic stability control, or ESC, to qualify for the award. Earlier this year, the institute said vehicles would need to receive its highest score in its roof strength evaluation to qualify the safety pick designation.