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More Injuries in Small Two-Door Japanese Cars; Fewer in Big American Autos

August 20, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Small two-door and Japanese cars have the worst record in crashes, while large American cars generally fare the best, the insurance industry says.

European cars, as a group, have a good injury record but tend to cost more to repair following accidents, according to the insurance industry’s Highway Loss Data Institute.

The institute’s latest report, released Monday, rated popular cars based on the personal injury and vehicle damage in crashes for 1982-1984 model cars.

″The cars with the bad injury experience are predominantly Japanese imports,″ said Brian O’Neill, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is closely associated with the Highway Loss Data Institute and released its findings.

Japanese-made vehicles, however, account for a large portion of small cars. Among the 30 two-door small cars listed, 16 were Japanese.

O’Neill said that while size of the vehicle is a major factor in crash damage, ″clearly there are engineering improvements that can be made to small cars (so) that they don’t have to be this bad.″

He cited as evidence the Saab 900, which scored at the top of both the two- door and four-door small cars for injuries. However, it was worse than average for collision damage.

The study divided 181 popular car models into three size groups based on their wheelbase length.

Among small cars, the Mercedes-Benz 380 SL Coupe and the Chevrolet Corvette were listed as ″substantially better than average″ in injuries. Small cars listed as ″better than average″ in injuries were the Saab 900 models, Porshe 944 Coupe and the Volkswagon Vanagon.

Eighteen small cars were listed as ″substantially worse than average″ and another 12 were listed as ″worse than average″ in overall injuries. Of those 30, 17 were Japanese.

Using the rating 100 as an average, the highest injury rating was attributed to the Nissan Pulsar, a two-door model that had 158, and the four- door Plymouth Colt (made by Mitsubishi) with 156.

Other two-door models with ″substantially worse than average″ injury ratings were: Pontiac 1000, 155; Chevrolet Chevette, 154; Mitsubishi Cordia, 151; Dodge Colt, 149; Plymouth Colt, 148; Toyota Starlet, 148; Renault Alliance, 138; Nissan Sentra, 137; Mercury Lynx, 137; Dodge Charger, 132.

Among four-door models, those rated ″substantially worse than average″ in injuries behind the Plymouth Colt were: Mitsubishi Tredia, 155; Nissan Sentra, 145; Dodge Colt, 144; Chevrolet Chevette, 143; Isuzu T-Car-I-Mark, 140; Pontiac 1000, 139.

By contrast, cars with the best injury records had ratings in the 50s and 60s.

According to the institute, models with the best results in both the injury and collision damage categories were the four-door Oldsmobile Delta 88, Buick LeSabre, Mercury Grand Marquis and Chevrolet Caprice; the station wagon or vans Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, Chevrolet Caprice and American Eagle 30; and the 2-door Ford Crown Victoria.

In overall injury alone, the best-rated cars were the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon, 54; Volvo 240 station wagon, 56; Mercedes-Benz 380SL Coupe, 57; and Oldsmobile Delta 88, 59.

O’Neill said the findings were based on reports of a dozen major insurance companies that write 40 percent of the nation’s automobile policies.

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