Efforts by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to strengthen criteria to receive its top safety awards have led automakers to improve the headlights on some 2021 vehicles, the group said Tuesday.
So far, automakers have improved the ratings on 10 models for 2021 by "eliminating or changing poor or marginal headlight packages," according to new evaluations by IIHS.
The insurer-funded group, which introduced headlight evaluations as part of its crash tests in 2016, said the 10 models also boosted their ratings to Top Safety Pick+ from Top Safety Pick. Vehicles must have "good" or "acceptable" headlights as standard equipment to qualify for the 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award. Headlights rated "good" or "acceptable" can be optional equipment for the Top Safety Pick award.
The vehicles with the improved headlight ratings are the Audi A7 large sedan, Honda Accord midsize sedan, Hyundai Palisade large crossover, Mazda CX-30 subcompact crossover, Nissan Altima midsize sedan, Subaru Ascent large crossover, Toyota Highlander large crossover, Volvo S60 compact sedan, Volvo XC40 compact crossover and Volvo XC60 midsize crossover.
The Honda Odyssey minivan, which did not earn either award for the 2020 model, also qualifies for this year's Top Safety Pick+ award after eliminating two substandard headlight offerings, IIHS said.
In addition, four 2020 models that earned Top Safety Pick+ awards improved their headlights for 2021, with "good" headlights now standard. Those vehicles are the Acura RDX compact crossover, Subaru Forester compact crossover, Subaru Legacy midsize sedan and Subaru Outback midsize crossover.
BMW also improved the headlights on the 2021 5 Series by eliminating an inferior option. "Good" rated headlights are now standard on the midsize sedan.
"More manufacturers are going to a single headlight package for many 2021 models, which is a big win for consumers," IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. "Sometimes, taking an inferior piece of equipment off the market is as important as the invention of a better one."
The institute said it anticipates unveiling the full list of 2021 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ winners in February.
IIHS, a nonprofit research organization that analyzes how to make motor vehicles safer, rates headlights on the distance that low and high beams illuminate straight and curved roads. Extra points are given to systems with high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high and low beams. It deducts points for headlights that produce glare and momentarily blind oncoming drivers.
"It's common sense that quality headlights protect against nighttime and other low-light crashes," Harkey said. "But even when manufacturers have offered good headlights, too often they were expensive add-ons that could be hard to find."
The institute added headlight ratings to its award criteria in 2017.
In addition to meeting the headlight criteria, winners of the two top accolades must have "good" ratings in each of the six crashworthiness tests and earn "advanced" or "superior" ratings in front-crash prevention in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.