The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee are two of the most popular SUV models in the U.S., and between them they accounted for half a million vehicle sales last year. So it's disturbing to think that they may not be safe in certain accident scenarios. But that's the finding of the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test

The 2018 models of each SUV earned scores of marginal on the driver's side, and poor on the passenger side in the Institute's small overlap front crash test. This test mimics a particularly dangerous type of accident in which a car, going at 40 miles an hour, strikes an object (such as another car, a fence, or a tree) with just the outer part of the bumper. The Institute's safety ratings for each test are good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Photos of the crash, and what happened to the crash test dummies, are particularly disturbing. In several instances, the Institute report describes injuries that would likely have occurred if a person had been in the car instead of a dummy. In a couple of cases the report drily notes that, "survival space was not maintained well."

Both models got good ratings on other types of crash tests, although the Explorer was also given a poor rating for its headlights. Several other SUV models got better grades on the small overlap front crash test, however. The Toyota Rav-4, the best selling SUV in the U.S. in 2017, according to Business Insider, also got a poor rating on the passenger side small overlap front test, but got a high safety rating overall because it scored good on every other test, including the driver side small overlap front test.

Ford told CNN in an email that the Explorer is safe and had scored well in other crash tests. It also said that it expects the 2019 Explorer to score well on all crash tests. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which makes Jeeps, released a statement that "All FCA US meet or exceed federal safety standards." (The federal government's safety standards are separate from the Institute's.) Fiat Chrysler's statement went on to say that "No single test measures overall vehicle safety."

It's interesting to note that the passenger side small overlap front test is a new test for the Institute, which has been performing the driver's side test for five years. The 2018 Ford Escape also failed the new passenger-side test but scored acceptable on the driver's side. This is because the company has reinforced the driver's side but not the passenger side in that model, according to the Institute. That kind of disparity is why the Institute began performing the test on both sides, according to a research engineer who helped design the test. 

Perhaps now more automakers will start reinforcing the passenger side of their vehicles as well.

Published on: Jun 13, 2018
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