2019 Chrysler Pacifica Claims Only IIHS Top Safety Pick for American Automakers
Of the 57 cars chosen for the award, Japanese and Korean models made up the majority while American representation was extremely low.
Chrysler's Pacifica minivan is the sole American-branded vehicle to earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for the 2019 model year. On Dec. 19, the organization announced 57 vehicles earned Top Safety Pick or the even higher Top Safety Pick+ designation, making the percentage of American vehicles comparatively meager to their European and Asian counterparts.
Japanese and Korean brands dominated the awards this year, with Subaru alone claiming seven. Genesis also did well, as its entire three-car lineup—the G70, G80, and G90—won accolades. Chrysler, which actually assembles the Pacifica at its plant in Windsor, Canada, is the only American brand to make IIHS's 2019 list.
The Pacifica earned a top safety pick in 2018 and 2017, as well, but it was joined by a larger field of American entries those years. In the 2018 model year alone, the Buick Envision, Chevy Volt, and Lincoln Continental also made the cut. So what happened?
The IIHS tightened its standards for awarding Top Safety Picks this year; models now need "acceptable" or "good" ratings in passenger-side crash tests to qualify. To earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation, models also must have a good rating in passenger-side small overlap testing.
IIHS tests measure how well a vehicle protects occupants in a crash, but also how well they avoid collisions and the effectiveness of their headlights. The institute separates vehicles by class so that, for instance, small cars are not compared to midsized SUVs. "Size and weight influence occupant protection in serious crashes," the IIHS notes on its website. "Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford more protection than smaller, lighter ones. Thus, a small car that's a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick doesn't necessarily afford more protection than a bigger car that doesn't earn the award."
Within the minivan category, only the Pacifica and Honda Odyssey earned Top Safety Picks for 2019. Both vehicles needed optional front crash prevention equipment and specific headlights to earn the designation. For the Chrysler, the IIHS deemed the Limited model equipped with the optional Advanced SafetyTec package, high-intensity discharge (HID) low beams, and halogen high beams the safest trim. That package comes with forward collision and lane departure warnings. Most vehicles making top grades with the IIHS are specifically optioned with front crash prevention equipment and extra-cost headlights.
The IIHS is a nonprofit funded by auto insurers. Its safety testing, along with that of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is the most comprehensive in North America. Other large automotive markets do their own testing, such as the European New Car Assessment Programme.