Industry Safety Group Hammers Jeep and Explorer on Safety

Douglas A. McIntyre

Two of the best-selling SUVs in the U.S. have been hammered for safety deficiencies by one of the most widely respected car testing organizations.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated eight midsized SUVs in several crash tests. The Jeep Grand Cherokee made by Fiat Chrysler (NYSE: FCAU) and the Explorer made by Ford (NYSE: F). The two vehicles received “poor” ratings on three of seven safety tests. The seven ratings involve passenger restraints,  structure, and overall safety as well as measures related to  injuries of the lower leg and foot, lower thigh and hip, chest, and head and neck. ‘

The Jeep received a poor rating overall, and for passenger restraints as well as lower leg and foot injury measures. The Explorer racked up poor grades overall, in addition to structure, and leg and thigh injury measures.

In sum, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the following:

The Ford Explorer rates poor because its structure was seriously compromised. Intrusion reached 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper door hinge pillar and the dashboard. The door sill was pushed in 6 inches toward the dummy. Measures taken from the dummy showed a high likelihood of injuries to the right hip in a real-world crash of the same severity, as well as a possibility of left lower leg injuries.

The Explorer also had poor structural performance in the driver-side test and earns an overall rating of marginal for driver-side small overlap protection. Ford is redesigning the Explorer and says the new model will have improved small overlap protection on both sides.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee had maximum intrusion of 10 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. More alarming was what happened to the passenger dummy’s head. It hit the dashboard hard through the front airbag and then, because the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy and the door opened, it moved outside the vehicle during rebound. Measures from the dummy indicated that right leg injuries would be likely in a crash of this severity and a head injury would be possible.

Of the six other SUVs tested, the Kia Sorrento, VW Atlas, and GMC (NYSE:GM) Arcadi received “good” ratings in the overall category, the highest grade. The Toyota (NYSE: TM) Pathfinder, Honda (NYSE: HMC) Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder received “acceptable” grades, which is the second highest mark.

Explorer sales in the first five months of the year amounted to 91,495 of Ford’s 1,047,056 total. Jeep Grand Cherokee sales were 91,589 of Fiat Chrysler’s 913,212 for the same period.

There is no clear measure of the impact of car research results on vehicle sales. But the institute’s ratings will likely have an impact on the sales outlook for the Grand Cherokee and Explorer.