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Why IIHS Is Quietly Moving Toyota and Lexus To Top Of Safety Rankings

A little-noticed aspect of the Top Safety Pick + designation will be putting Toyota and Lexus vehicles ahead of rivals.

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) is the group that conducts the most comprehensive safety automotive evaluations and ranking in the U.S. marketplace. Well known for its Top Safety Pick + ranking that all automakers seek to earn for their vehicles, IIHS has been moving toward harder and harder standards for automakers to named to the top of the safety listings it compiles. A move by Toyota and Lexus last year is about to move its models to the top of the listings for many automotive segments. The reason is that Toyota and Lexus are making a key safety system standard, and other automakers are not.

To earn the top score, a vehicle must do “Good” on all crash tests and also have Advanced, or Superior rated forward crash protection (FCP) with automatic braking. IIHS has concluded in real life studies of identical models with and without the system that FCP reduces front-to-back crashes by 40% or more.

Every automaker knows the systems have now een proven, but most don’t want to spend the extra money to protect all of their customers, so they just install the systems on their top trims, and thus, protect just those customers who pay more.

U.S. regulators and IIHS were moving to mandate the systems since they prevent so many injuries. However, the automakers saw this coming and got together last year. They decided they would make the technology standard by 2022. All except Toyota and Lexus, who are making it standard now.

One unexpected benefit Toyota and Lexus will enjoy was mentioned in a little-noticed tweet by IIHS yesterday that said, “We have begun to give priority in our rating summaries to vehicles with STANDARD front crash prevention.” What this means is that in a given segment where Toyota and Lexus have earned the Top Safety Pick+ designation, their vehicles will appear at the top of IIHS listings. Only a handful of other brands have FCP standard on all trims of limited models, so for a while, Toyota and Lexus will top most IIHS lists. In the past, vehicles were arranged alphabetically.