Lincoln MKX earns highest award

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Lincoln MKX earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick+ award, thanks to across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings and a superior-rated front crash prevention system.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Lincoln MKX earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick+ award, thanks to across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings and a superior-rated front crash prevention system.

The previous version of the midsize luxury SUV had good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations, but was never put through the challenging small overlap test. Introduced in 2012, the test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.

The 2016 MKX aced the small overlap test, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. The dummy's movement was well-controlled. Its head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound, and the side curtain airbag deployed with sufficient coverage to protect the head from contact with the side structure or outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of injuries in a real crash of the same severity.

The redesigned model's optional front crash prevention system earns a perfect score in IIHS track tests. The vehicle avoided a collision in both the 12 mph and 25 mph tests. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Read more: Lincoln MKX earns highest award

Mazda CX-3 earns Top Safety Pick+

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Mazda CX-3, a new small SUV, earns the highest award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, thanks to good crashworthiness ratings across the board and an optional front crash prevention system with a superior rating.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Mazda CX-3, a new small SUV, earns the highest award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, thanks to good crashworthiness ratings across the board and an optional front crash prevention system with a superior rating.

The 2016 CX-3 earns good ratings in the Institute's small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.

The SUV's optional front crash prevention system earns a superior rating. In IIHS track tests at 12 mph, the vehicle avoided a collision. In tests at 25 mph, the impact speed was cut by an average of 23 mph.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Read more: Mazda CX-3 earns Top Safety Pick+

Hail claims for vehicle damage top $7 billion  

ARLINGTON, Va. — The spring and summertime forecast is a familiar one — severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and hail are on the way. Already in 2016, Texas in particular has been walloped by bigger-than-baseball-size hail that shattered windows, busted roofs and dinged vehicles in March and April. An updated analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) of insurance losses to vehicles shows that 2011 and 2014 were the costliest years for hail-related claims in the U.S. during the 2008-14 study period, and losses were concentrated in the country's midsection.

When hail damages vehicles, any insurance claim owners file would fall under the comprehensive coverage provision of their auto insurance policies. This type of coverage insures against theft or physical damage to insured people's own vehicles that occurs for reasons other than crashes.

HLDI has been studying the frequency, severity and cost of these claims for several years. Using information from insurers about weather-related losses under comprehensive coverage, HLDI analysts matched the dates of those claims to hail events recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine which vehicle claims were for hail damage. The analysis excluded any hail storms that accompanied tornadoes, since it isn't possible using HLDI's data to determine which weather event caused the damage that led to the claim. Motorcycle claims also were excluded.

Hail claims data are from the 31 companies that specify weather as a cause of loss when supplying information to HLDI. These companies' exposure represents 87 percent of the comprehensive coverage exposure in HLDI's database. Results for the latest analysis were based on more than 491 million insured vehicle years and more than 1.5 million claims.

Insurers in HLDI's database paid $5.37 billion in total hail claims for 2008-14. The biggest payouts were in 2014 ($968.9 million) and 2011 ($948.3 million). The actual payout by all insurers is likely higher and estimated to be $7.26 billion ($1.33 billion in 2014 and $1.28 billion in 2011). This takes into account that not all companies are represented in HLDI's database and not all data suppliers submit weather information.

The results showed a frequency of 3.2 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years during 2008-14, a claim severity of $3,428 and overall losses of $11 per insured vehicle year. Across the study period, 2011 had the highest claim frequency of 4.3, while 2014 had the highest claim severity at $4,169 and overall loss at $15 per insured vehicle year.

The states with the highest claim frequencies during 2008-14 are South Dakota (26.5), Nebraska (19.1), Oklahoma (18.4) and Kansas (16.5). Other states in the top 10, by order, are Wyoming (15.2), Montana (11.8), Colorado (10), Missouri (9.3), Iowa (7.6) and Texas (6.7).

"HLDI periodically does studies to document the effects of weather on insurance losses," says Matt Moore, HLDI vice president. "Hail storms can be devastating events for vehicle owners. Given the recent news from Texas, as soon as the final numbers are available, we will be updating this study." Moore adds that "2011 and 2014 were bad years for hail storms, but it looks like 2016 may be worse."

So far in 2016, severe thunderstorms have pummeled Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma with large hailstones. Vehicle damage estimates for three springtime Texas storms alone top $1 billion, according to the Insurance Council of Texas. Some of these losses may be due to other weather factors, such as high winds.

Although Great Plains and Midwestern states predominate HLDI's hail claims' list, the most extreme hail events often occur in other regions, and this was the case in 5 of the 7 years examined. While it is true that spring is prime time for destructive hail events, HLDI analysts uncovered another outlier.

The worst hailstorm in terms of insurance losses to vehicles occurred in the fall in the Southwest during the study period. Vehicle damage from the Oct. 5, 2010, Arizona storm was concentrated in three counties: Gila, Maricopa and Yavapai. Of the three counties, Maricopa had the highest hail-loss tally for the day, with nearly 39,000 claims and more than $157 million in payments.

Top 10 states with the highest hail-claim frequencies, 2008-14

  1. South Dakota (26.5)
  2. Nebraska (19.1)
  3. Oklahoma (18.4)
  4. Kansas (16.5)
  5. Wyoming (15.2)
  6. Montana (11.8)
  7. Colorado (10)
  8. Missouri (9.3)
  9. Iowa (7.6)
  10. Texas (6.7)

Total frequencies for hail-related vehicle claims during 2008-14 for 10 most current model years

Read more: Hail claims for vehicle damage top $7 billion  

Ford Fusion earns top award

ARLINGTON, Va. — A modified front-end structure and a new optional automatic braking system help the 2017 Ford Fusion qualify for a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

ARLINGTON, Va. — A modified front-end structure and a new optional automatic braking system help the 2017 Ford Fusion qualify for a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The beefed-up front end improved the Fusion's performance in the small overlap front test from acceptable to good. Before the changes, the Fusion had maximum intrusion of 6 inches in the test, and the dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off. In contrast, maximum intrusion in the 2017 model was less than 2 inches, and the airbags and safety belt worked well together to control the dummy's movement.

Like earlier Fusions, the 2017 model earns good ratings in the Institute's four other crashworthiness tests — moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

The midsize car's front crash prevention rating improved from basic to superior with the addition of autobrake. In track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph, the Fusion avoided collisions. The optional system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Read more: Ford Fusion earns top award

Chevrolet Malibu earns top award

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Chevrolet Malibu earns the top award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety when equipped with optional front crash prevention.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Chevrolet Malibu earns the top award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety when equipped with optional front crash prevention.

Like its predecessor, the 2016 Malibu earns good ratings across the board in the IIHS crashworthiness tests, which include small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.

For the first time, the Malibu is available with front crash prevention systems that include automatic braking.

When equipped with both Front Automatic Braking and City-Speed Front Automatic Braking, the Malibu earns a superior rating for front crash prevention. The midsize car avoided a collision in the 12 mph IIHS track test and slowed by an average of 24 mph in the 25 mph track test. When equipped with only City-Speed Front Automatic Braking, the Malibu avoided a collision in the 12 mph test and slowed by 9 mph in the 25 mph test, earning an advanced rating.

The systems, both of which are optional, include forward collision warning that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Read more: Chevrolet Malibu earns top award

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