SUVs Score Well In Rollover Tests
SUVs performed as well or better than a pair of station wagons and pickups in rollover tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to press reports.
This round of tests was the first time that the NHTSA has actually tested vehicles on a track in an attempt to determine their rollover propensity. Previously, the NHTSA's rollover ratings were based on a mathematical formula using the vehicle's dimensions.
Although the new test still uses a mathematical formula, it also incorporates road test results determined by driving an SUV through certain extreme turns. The road portion was added late last year under a mandate from Congress after the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire debacle, the Wall Street Journal said.
None of the SUVs which underwent the new test scored the government's highest five-star rating nor did any receive the lowest one-star rating. Many earned four stars, however, meaning they have a 10 percent to 20 percent chance of rolling over in a single-vehicle crash.
After the dynamic test, four SUVs improved their rating over that which they received under the old test. These included versions of the Jeep Liberty and the Chevy TrailBlazer. Three of the five pickup trucks tested also improved from previous scores based solely on the static test.
Two of the vehicles tipped up on two wheels during the sharp turns — the SUV and the four-wheel drive pickup truck — but this did not affect their ratings; the Explorer kept its two-star rating (which is defined as having a rollover likelihood of between 30% and 40%) and the Tacoma actually improved its rating from two to three stars (defined as a rollover risk between 20% and 30%).
NHTSA Test Results
Rating ranges from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).
MAKE AND MODEL — ROLLOVER RATING
Chevrolet TrailBlazer 4x2 — 3
Chevrolet TrailBlazer 4x4 — 4
Chevrolet Silverado 4x2 extended cab — 4
Chevrolet Silverado 4x4 extended cab — 4
Ford Explorer Sport Trac 4x2 — 2
Ford Focus Wagon — 4
Jeep Liberty 4x2 — 3
Jeep Liberty 4x4 — 3
Subaru Outback wagon — 4
Toyota Echo — 4
Toyota 4Runner 4x4 — 3
Toyota 4Runner 4x2 — 3
Toyota Tacoma 4x4 extended cab — 3
Volvo XC90 4x4 — 4
Rebates Roll On
Although overall cash rebates, interest-free loans and other incentives to lure new-vehicle buyers fell slightly in January, Detroit's Big Three continued to ratchet up their deals, Reuters reported, citing data from an industry research group on Wednesday.
Autodata said the average incentive from the Big Three climbed to $3,808 per vehicle, up about $100 from December. General Motors offered the largest average January incentive at $4,189 per vehicle. Chrysler was close behind at $3,904. And Ford's average incentive for the month totaled $3,215 per vehicle.
By comparison, 's average incentive was $1,704 per vehicle. Toyota's January incentives averaged just $851 per vehicle, and Honda spent $582 per vehicle in incentives in January.
Toyota's Profits Soar
Toyota's net profit surged 60 percent during the latest quarter on robust sales worldwide, The Associated Press reported.
Toyota, which recently passed Ford to become the world's second biggest automaker, said its net profit totaled $2.7 billion on sales which totaled $41.6 billion, up 8 percent from the same period last year.
Toyota sold 1.7 million vehicles globally in the quarter, up 10 percent from 1.5 million a year ago. Of that, overseas vehicle sales climbed nearly 15 percent to 1.14 million vehicles.
Toyota's North American retail vehicles sales crossed the 2 million mark for the first time last year at 2.07 million vehicles, the company said.
Toyota raised its vehicle sales forecast for the current fiscal year ending March 31 to 6.65 million vehicles, up 80,000 from a previous prediction in November and up 540,00 from fiscal 2002, the story said.
It also raised its earnings forecast for the fiscal year to $5.3 billion and its sales target to $83 billion.
Subaru Previews 2005 Outback Models
Subaru said in a news release that its 2005 model line includes the Outback 2.5i and Outback 2.5i Limited models — powered by a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine — and six-cylinder models which include the Outback 3.0 R L.L.Bean Edition and flagship Outback 3.0 R VDC Limited. The Outback 2.5 XT and 2.5 XT Limited models are exclusively powered by a 250-horsepower intercooled/turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine.
Arriving at Subaru dealerships in spring 2004, the "thoroughly revised" 2005 Outback models are designed and equipped to compete with the growing range of crossover vehicles in the market, including luxury-brand models, the company said.
The new Outbacks have a longer wheelbase, wider track, lower center of gravity, and vehicle weight has been reduced by as much as 180 pounds. The vehicle ground clearance and seating position have also been improved for 2005 Outback models, Subaru said.
Subaru says it will offers three different all-wheel drive systems in the 2005 Outback models. With the 5-speed manual transmission, the system distributes the power 50/50 front to rear. Slippage at either set of wheels will send more power to the other set of wheels. Outback 3.0 R models — and Outback 2.5 XT models when equipped with the 5-speed automatic transmission — use a system called Variable Torque Distribution (VTD). VTD normally sends more power to the rear wheels to enhance handling agility, and it continuously adjusts the power distribution in response to driving and road conditions. The Outback 3.0 R VDC Limited model gets Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), an advanced stability system that controls VTD operation and integrates an electronic four-wheel traction control system.