The Importance of Engineering to Insurance

If you get a car that doesn’t make the IIHS list of good, solid product you’re likely to have a higher number on that bill you pay every month.

IIHS is one of the most powerful organizations when it comes to how light vehicles are engineered and produced.  Possibly as powerful as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

And IIHS even trumps Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.

While everyone that I know refers to IIHS as, well, “IIHS,” its full name is the “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.”

That’s insurance as in “car insurance.”

The outfit was established in 1959 by three insurance organizations that wrote about 80 percent of the car insurance policies in the U.S.  The initial goal was to fund other organizations and academic facilities to look into highway safety.  As time went on IIHS itself began to perform research, including the physical crash testing of vehicles.

On the one hand, the tests that it runs are beneficial to drivers and occupants because if a car or truck is determined to be, through the instrumented tests, less than robust and consequently not as protective as other cars or trucks in its class, then consumers can be advised as to how to avoid buying those vehicles.

On the other hand, it is beneficial to the insurance companies that people are safer in their vehicles, because a consequence of that is that claims paid out for accidents can be lower than they otherwise might be.

One hand, in effect, washes the other.

(I can only assume that if you get a car that doesn’t make the IIHS list of good, solid product you’re likely to have a higher number on that bill you pay every month.)

The 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK (yes, they use all caps; we’ll use it just this once) list has been published.

There are two categories.

One is Top Safety Pick.  This is predicated earning “good” ratings in five tests—small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.  And the vehicle must score either an “advanced” or “superior” rating for front crash prevention.

Then there is Top Safety Pick+.  The + is based on the vehicle not only meeting the previously named, but also have “acceptable” or “good” headlight ratings.  The headlight ratings are predicated on things like the distances that the low- and high-beams provide illumination and glare.  While headlights have become a key design feature for vehicles, IIHS looks at them more pragmatically.

The list of vehicles that have achieved either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ ratings is rather interesting.

For example, there are two vehicles in the “Minicars” category, both receiving Top Safety Pick rankings (no +).  They are the 2017 Mini Cooper (“with optional front crash protection and applies only to Hardtop 2-door models”) and the 2017 Toyota Yaris iA.  One might think that there are only two due to the nature of minicars—after all, given the existence of physical laws, making them safe must be quite a challenge.

But then it is worth noting that in the “Large Cars” category there is only one vehicle—the 2017 Toyota Avalon, with a Top Safety Pick rating—and there is only one in the “Large SUVs” category, too—the 2017 Audi Q7, with a Top Safety Pick award.

And in “Large pickups” there is one vehicle—the 2017 Honda Ridgeline (“with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights”), and the Ridgeline is the first pickup to get the Top Safety Pick+.

The point is, even large vehicles need excellent engineering and manufacturing and technology in order to make the grade.