Global Automakers

New Independent Research Shows Voluntary Commitment's Lifesaving Benefits

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September 28, 2011

Washington, D.C. – A landmark voluntary 2003 agreement among automakers has led to dramatic drops in traffic fatality rates in crashes between cars and light trucks. According to a new analysis of real-world crash data by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there is now no difference in the fatality rates between cars that are hit by SUVs and cars that are hit by other cars.

Under the terms of the 2003 agreement, automakers reengineered SUV and pickup front ends so that their energy-absorbing structures would line up better with those of cars, allowing both vehicles to better manage crash energy in head-on collisions. The 2003 agreement also included enhancing head protection in all vehicles to better protect occupants in side crashes.

“Automakers are working to design and build vehicles that are even safer, and we have real-world benefits to show for it,” said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President and CEO Mitch Bainwol. “Our industry’s proactive efforts, including these voluntary guidelines, have saved lives and have played a large role in the on-going drop in highway fatality figures. That’s our highest priority.”

“These positive results are testimony to the efforts of automakers who researched this issue, identified opportunities for improvement, and swiftly implemented those improvements into production,” said Global Automakers President and CEO Michael J. Stanton.

The 2003 agreement stems from efforts by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to enhance occupant safety across all vehicle types.

“The work the automakers did together is saving lives,” said IIHS Chief Operating Officer and co-author of the study, Joe Nolan. “New designs and technology like side airbags are making it safer for cars, SUVs, and pickups to share the road.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers, which together represent virtually 100 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, entered into the agreement with input from the IIHS and have reported the agreement’s success to NHTSA.

“This voluntary agreement is a model for responsible action by automakers to improve safety,” added Bainwol. “Automakers entered into the agreement at the end of 2003 and right away began working to implement the enhancements. Just six years later, 100 percent of the vehicles involved were being engineered to meet the agreement’s performance criteria. That’s very quick action when you consider the major structural changes that were made. In the end, vehicle occupants are better protected in crashes.”

“We’re pleased with the success we’ve achieved in vehicle crash compatibility and welcome opportunities to participate in voluntary programs that can deliver results more quickly than the traditional route of legislation and rulemaking,” added Stanton.

Crash compatibility is just one of many voluntary industry commitments developed by automakers and international safety expert groups. For example, a 2000 voluntary safety commitment to enhance side-airbag performance was developed by the Alliance, Global Automakers, IIHS, and the Automotive Occupants Restraints Council.

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The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of 12 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW, Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo. For more information, visit

The Association of Global Automakers, formerly known as the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), represents international motor vehicle manufacturers, original equipment suppliers, and other automotive-related trade associations. Our members’ market share of both U.S. sales and production is 40 percent and growing. We work with industry leaders, legislators, regulators, and other stakeholders in the United States to create public policy that improves motor vehicle safety, encourages technological innovation and protects our planet. Our goal is to foster an open and competitive automotive marketplace that encourages investment, job growth, and development of vehicles that can enhance Americans’ quality of life. For more information, visit


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