The days when the government had to prod lethargic automakers to make safer vehicles are long gone. Now, the government can't write regulations fast enough to keep up with advances in safety technology.
Automakers - and their suppliers - have become the champions of safety and they must continue the momentum, now that consumers expect it.
It's all part of the New Safety Era in which safety sells vehicles. Minivans wear safety ratings as a badge of honor, and among those quintessential family vehicles, a five-star safety rating can be a make-it or break-it feature in advertising.
Consumers want safer vehicles for their families, and automakers can't give them enough. Already, without so much as a nudge from government, automakers have introduced stability and traction control devices, backup warning devices, a night-vision system, satellite-connected emergency communication systems and a variety of side airbag configurations.
Skeptics and critics who say that the momentous shift has been for commercial purposes not some purer, altruistic motive should get real. It is OK to do well by doing good, and vice versa.
Safety sells because consumers are better educated. They're also quick to share their opinions, and the Internet will allow faster word of mouth communication, which will intensify the importance of any safety issues.
Now is not the time for auto execs to pat themselves on the back and let up. They must redouble their efforts and remain the champions of safety.