The Honda Ridgeline was the only 2017 model year pickup truck of any size to earn top safety honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The influential insurance industry trade group, which evaluated the safety characteristics of 10 pickup truck models sold in the U.S., named the newly introduced Ridgeline a Top Safety Pick + in its 2017 lineup.
No other truck, including the Ford F-Series – the best-selling vehicle of any type in the U.S. – earned even a Top Safety Pick, the second-best ranking awarded by IIHS.
A new but familiar entrant into the category, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is fighting for market share among heavy hitters like the Ford F-150. The redesigned version of the mid-size pickup last sold in 2014 has reentered the market during a period when truck sales are growing rapidly.
Automakers have sold more than 2.4 million pickups in this U.S. through the first 11 months of this year, a 6.2 increase compared with the same period last year, according to Autodata Corp., an industry research firm. That growth comes at a time when the entire auto market has failed to log a sales increase.
The Ridgeline, which arrived at dealerships late last summer, sold 19,582 units through November. By comparison, Ford has sold more than 733,000 F-Series pickups this year.
“The Ridgeline was named a Top Safety Pick + because it had good-rated headlights, available front crash prevention system with automatic breaking and also a good rating in the small overlap frontal crash test,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the institute, which is an insurance industry research group.
IIHS said a new, more stringent headlight evaluation was the differentiating factor between the two levels of awards. The Ridgeline was one of only seven 2017 model vehicles of any type to have “good” rated headlights. The balance of winners received an acceptable rating.
Vehicles earning the IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating also had to be equipped with automatic braking as a standard feature.
“We are excited Ridgeline is the first and only pickup truck with the highest safety honor from IIHS,” Honda said in a statement. “The Ridgeline, like all Honda models, are engineered with safety in mind, including addressing the new stringent IIHS requirements.”
Other requirement for both the Top Safety Pick award and the Top Safety Pick + award include “good” ratings in IIHS’ small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. The vehicles must also have an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention with at least optional automatic braking, a feature automakers have committed to making standard for all models by 2022.
“Manufacturers are focusing on improving this basic safety equipment, and we’re confident that the winners’ list will grow as the year progresses,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president
Ford’s F-150 pickup received a good rating in small overlap testing, but fell short in other evaluations, said Rader.
“Some of the other trucks have weaker ratings, especially in the large segment. Most large pickups tested for small overlap only meet acceptable ratings. Other cab configurations are marginal,” he said.
The second and third best-selling vehicles in the U.S., the Chevrolet Silverado truck and the Ram pickup from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, also failed to earn a top safety award from the insurance group.
IIHS didn’t test smaller-sized pickups for small overlap frontal strength. Rader said he didn’t anticipate they would earn a good rating since none of the auto manufacturers nominated any of the pickups for full testing.
Regardless, there were still other issues with these pickups including “poor-rated headlights and lack of automatic braking,” he said
Although traditional pickups of any size weren’t prevalent in the top safety rankings IIHS selected several SUVs and crossovers, which are also classified as light trucks.
The Mazda CX-3, the Mitsubishi Outlander, the Nissan Rogue, the Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV4 all made the Top Safety Pick + list in the small SUV segment.
Luxury vehicles dominated midsize SUV category by collecting eight awards. These include the Acura MDX and RDX, the Audi Q5, the Buick Envision, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, the Volvo XC60 and both Lexus’ entries, the NX and RX. Honda’s popular Pilot and Hyundai’s Santa Fe rounded out the lot.
Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage were both named to the small SUV Top Safety Pick list among others. Midsized utilities had five winners, including Nissan’s Murano and Pathfinder, and luxury SUVs named Top Picks in the same size class were the Cadillac XT5, the Infiniti QX60, the Lincoln MKX and the Volvo XC90. The Audi Q7 was the only large SUV to make the cut.
Automakers are already incorporating the ratings into their marketing plans.
“Earning top ratings from some of the industry’s most important safety organizations validates not only the excellence of the Envision, but further builds the Buick brand’s reputation as a leader in safety and quality, two attributes high on every shopper’s list,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick Sales, Service and Marketing.