Subaru, VW top brands in survey of safest cars

Two nameplates - Subaru and Volkswagen - and three manufacturers - Ford, Subaru, and VW - stand out from the crowd among the winners in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Picks for 2010. All turned in stellar performances in the annual survey of the safest cars on the American road, with multiple models represented.

Five Subaru models - more than any other single nameplate - made it onto the list of Top Safety Picks for this year. The Japanese automaker also achieved the singular distinction of having a winning model in all four of the categories in which it competes. Subaru makes no large cars.

The winning Subaru models are:

Midsize cars: Legacy and Outback
Small cars: Impreza (WRX model excluded)
Midsize SUVs: Tribeca
Small SUVs: Forester

Subaru attributed its strong showing in the rankings to a unique engine design -- the engine is mounted low on the vehicle chassis and slides down and under the passenger compartment in the event of a frontal collision.

Tom Doll, executive vice president and COO of Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Subaru of America, said the awards were "a tribute to the engineering that goes into Subaru products." Subaru has bucked the continuing downward slide in auto sales so far this year, posting a 13 percent sales increase for the first 10 months of 2009.

Ford Motor Company and its Volvo unit took overall corporate honors, with a total of six Top Safety Picks this year. Volkswagen (four winners) and sister nameplate Audi (one) tied with Subaru for overall second place.

A total of 19 automobiles and eight SUVs made the IIHS' list of safest cars this year, down from a record 94 in 2009. The safest-car list shrank dramatically after the IIHS added a roof strength test to measure protection in a rollover accident to its requirements.

Written by Sandy Smith

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