The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), responding to safety concerns about popular sports utility vehicles, a proposed a controversial rating system to let consumers compare the risks of rolling over in SUVs, cars, pickups and vans.
Vehicles will be assigned one to five stars (one star being the least safe) based on a mathematical formula that uses height and wheel-to-wheel width to predict stability.
The auto industry objects to a math-based rating, saying it is not a good predictor of either accidents or fatalities and doesn't take into account emerging technologies to prevent rollovers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which will oversee the ratings, said SUVs are likely to receive one to three stars under the new rating system, compared with four to five stars for cars. Pickups are expected to range from one to four stars, and vans from two to three.
Robert Strassburger, Vice President, Vehicle Safety and Harmonization, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, with the following statement:
"While we fully support efforts to reduce the incidence of rollovers, the Alliance believes that NHTSA's proposed rollover rating is much too simplistic to contribute to this goal. Real-world rollover crashes involve many complex factors-the driver, road conditions, environmental conditions, and vehicle occupants-in addition to vehicle design considerations. In fact, vehicle characteristics are by far the smallest contributing factor in rollover crashes involving injury and death.
"The Alliance is surprised that NHTSA proposed this particular measure for rating rollover propensity, since this same measure was rejected by the agency as inappropriate for a safety standard or as a consumer information rating more than 10 years ago.
"Automakers are working to minimize the incidence of rollovers, through consumer education and through the development of advanced technologies- especially those designed to warn a driver to modify his or her behavior so as to avoid the conditions that lead to a crash. Manufacturers are also working to reduce the risks from rollovers when they do occur through new occupant protection safety measures."
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a coalition of 13 car and light truck manufacturers, representing BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Fiat Auto SpA, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Isuzu Motors America, Inc., Mazda North American Operations, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc., Nissan North America, Inc., Porsche Cars North America, Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Volkswagen of America, Inc., and Volvo Cars of North America, Inc. It was formed in January 1999 and serves as a leading advocacy group for the automobile industry on public policy matters.