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Mitsubishi SUV's score safer than ever

Mitsubishi's rise from worst possible rating for its SUVs in safety evaluations, to a Top Safety Pick shows the road to safer vehicles created by IIHS

Before the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began testing vehicles the US government was the sole supplier of crash test information. The government testing was less stringent; less detailed, and was not typically something that consumers heard about before making a purchase decision. In 1992 that changed when the IIHS opened its new Vehicle Research Center in Virginia. The IIHS started to more comprehensively test vehicles and publicize the rankings between competitive models in the vehicles category.

At first the results were ugly. The frontal offset crash that IIHS performed caught designers off guard and many vehicles were found to be poorly designed for this typical crash. Makers began to adapt. Some fought with the institute or rejected its findings. Next, the institute began to do side impact tests and again the results were typically very embarrassing for the auto makers. They adapted. Finally, the trend continued when the IIHS started to evaluate both rollover risks and roof crush standards. However by now the automakers have wised up and play nice. Redesigns based on the institute’s findings are not only common, but the automakers have taken to creating press releases embracing the findings and bragging about their quick response to the findings with a robust redesign.

Mitsubishi is a good case in point. The Mitsubishi Sport circa 1997-2000 was given the institute’s worst ranking, Poor, after tests revealed major issues. Of six measured categories the Montero Sport received the lowest rating, and for another category it received the second lowest. Fast forward to today and buyers will now find that the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the spiritual successor to the Montero Sport, has aced all categories and received the IIHS’ highest possible ranking and was awarded a “Top Safety Pick.” To receive the top ranking Mitsubishi made changes to the roof structure.

Since its beginnings the IIHS has brought public awareness to the issue of vehicle safety, and Mitsubishi’s sport utility vehicles highlight the gains made in safety.