WASHINGTON - The Cadillac Seville has gone from worst to first in crash test ratings by the insurance industry.
In the latest round of frontal offset crash testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the 2000 Seville earned an overall good rating. The previous design, covering 1993-97 models, had been rated 'poor.'
Institute President Brian O'Neill noted General Motors received some low ratings in the past and said, 'Now it's time to salute this automaker for paying serious attention to crashworthiness improvements with its newer designs.'
GM spokesman Greg Martin said his company is pleased with the Seville's turnaround, but still doesn't think the institute testing is an accurate measurement of real-world performance.
'If it (the good rating) is a byproduct of our overall safety approach, then great,' but GM did not make design changes to do better in the widely publicized insurance industry testing, he said.
Other recently tested large cars that received overall good ratings were the Lexus GS 300 and GS 400, Buick Park Avenue, Buick LeSabre, Pontiac Bonneville and Chevrolet Impala.
The Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde were 'marginal.' The Chrysler LHS and 300M were 'poor.'
The institute, the research arm of automobile insurers, crashes the front edge of a vehicle at 40 mph into a deformable barrier. O'Neill said it is a challenging test of a vehicle's body structure.
The DaimlerChrysler cars' structures did not manage crash energy as well as they should have, the institute said. In addition, the airbag on the LHS deployed late and allowed the dummy's head to hit the steering wheel.
DaimlerChrysler spokesman Mike Aberlich said his company was concerned about the outcome and conducted two crash tests of its own - it ran LHS sedans into the front edges of oncoming Toyota Camrys, the kind of crashes the institute is simulating.
Aberlich said the LHS airbags performed properly in the company tests, confirming DaimlerChrysler's theory that the institute simulation, using a nonrigid barrier, sometimes causes late airbag firings.
Aberlich said DaimlerChrysler will study the institute findings further, but doesn't plan any vehicle changes at this time. Making airbags more sensitive could lead to unnecessary deployments in low-speed impacts, he noted.