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NHTSA unveils new safety ratings; BMW and Hyundai first to get five stars

Tue, 05 Oct 2010

The 2011 BMW 5-series and the Hyundai Sonata were the first two cars to achieve five-star ratings under NHTSA's revised safety ratings announced on Tuesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will rate a total of 24 cars, 20 SUVs, nine pickups and two vans for the 2011 model year.

The federal agency has significantly modified its rating process and will now grade side-pole testing and crash-prevention technologies such as lane-departure warning and electronic stability control.

Female crash-test dummies were also used for the first time. Additionally, NHTSA will compile an overall score which combines frontal, side and rollover results and compares them with the average risk of injury and rollover potential of other rides.

“With our upgraded five-star safety-ratings system, we're raising the bar on safety” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Through new tests, better crash data and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers.”

The Nissan Versa got the lowest score and was the only vehicle to earn a total rating of two stars.

BMW said it was pleased that its technology-laden sedan earned the coveted recognition from NHTSA.

“The performance of the new 5-series in these tough new tests reflects BMW's long-held belief in a holistic approach to vehicle safety that places equal emphasis on active and passive safety,” Jim O'Donnell, president of BMW of North America, said in a statement.

The 2011 Sonata is dramatic step forward for Hyundai with new styling and turbo and hybrid variants that complement the base four-cylinder engine.

“The Sonata furthers our commitment to safety with a suite of equipment and third-party test results that are unsurpassed in the category,” Hyundai Motor America president John Krafcik said in a statement.

By Greg Migliore