WASHINGTON - The 2000 Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn LS have each been awarded just two stars in a government side-impact crash test.
The score, out of a possible five, is not the lowest possible. The government, in its New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP, gives one to five stars to vehicles for the amount of protection provided to belted occupants in front- and side-impact crash tests.
But with most manufacturers increasingly posting high scores on the crash tests, a score of two stars sticks out. One star is the worst possible rating, but the two-star Malibu and Saturn scores were the lowest in 22 crash tests reported so far by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the 2000 model year.
General Motors spokesman Greg Martin said the company realizes consumers want comparative crash data when they shop and that NCAP has some value.
But he added the company still believes the tests 'do not necessarily provide an accurate assessment of vehicle safety in real-world driving.' They do not show, for example, how vehicles perform in a variety of crash situations or what capabilities they may have for avoiding crashes, he said.
NHTSA crashes vehicles into solid barriers at 35 mph for the frontal test and rams a deformable barrier into the sides of vehicles at 38.5 mph for the side-impact test. Both speeds are 5 mph faster than what is used for compliance with federal safety standards.
Automakers, which have long opposed NCAP testing, are increasingly using results in advertising - when their products earn five stars.
In the recent wave of testing, five stars were recorded at least once by each of the following: Honda Accord, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda MPV, and Volkswagen Jetta and Passat.
In the frontal test, one star means a 46 percent or greater chance of serious injury, and a five-star rating means 10 percent or less, NHTSA said.
Results are valid only in comparing vehicles of similar size, NHTSA says.
The agency, meanwhile, is considering adding other vehicle ratings to the consumer information it provides. Officials have discussed adding braking performance scores and rollover propensity ratings, among others.