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Each year, nearly half a million cars hit the road with no publicly available crash test rating. Sports cars, small-batch luxury models, and SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne don’t receive this vital safety testing. Consumer Reports details why and what buyers can do to inform their buying decisions. 

Who assigns crash test safety ratings?

Every new model must undergo internal manufacturer crash testing. Without this testing, vehicles can not be certified to meet federal minimum safety standards. However, it’s not required for automakers to provide a publicly available crash test rating. 

Two organizations provide most of the crash test data used in the American automotive industry. Firstly, The federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a government agency.

It’s part of the United States Department of Transportation. The agency offers a star rating of vehicles, develops crash test dummies for U.S. testing, writes the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and insurance pricing information.

Secondly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), established in 1959, rates several consumer products. The automotive insurance agency funds this U.S.-based non-profit organization. IIHS provides crash test safety ratings from poor to good. The organization also researches traffic patterns and road design.

How are crash test ratings determined?

Crash-test ratings provide an overall impression of a car’s safety. The risk of fatality in a head-on collision is gauged based on human data and engineering analysis. Some factors contribute to the survivability of a crash. Data on each of these factors contribute to an overall score.

The IIHS makes bases ratings on four categories. They consider crash test dummy data, seatbelt performance, airbag effectiveness, and survival space. If the car’s passenger area resists crushing to allow the airbags room to function and the seat belts properly engage, a vehicle is likely to receive a high score. 

In 2010 the NHTSA expanded the parameters of their testing. Under this new system, many cars received lower ratings than they previously had.

Both major crash test ratings, as well as other safety information, should adequately inform buying choices. Meanwhile, if inadequate safety information is an issue, buyers can wait to see the car’s performance on the road. 

How to research a car that’s never been crash tested

Close up through the driver's window of a yellow crash test dummy seated in a blue car
A crash test dummy sits inside a Toyota Coralla | Jim Watson

Buyers researching a car with no crash test rating don’t need to be left in the dark. There are several other ways to learn about the safety of a vehicle. Many cars share identical frames, suspensions, and chassis. Comparing the public safety information of a similar car can provide some insight. 

The Porche Cayenne shares several components with other vehicles. The Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touaregboth share the same electronics, doors, body frame, and platform as the Cayenne.

The Touaregboth and the Q7 similarly scored high marks in safety. Buyers can evaluate a car’s safety by comparing these similar makes and models. 

How safe is the Porsche Cayenne?

Consumer Reports offers safety ratings that include more than crash test data. These safety reports can help paint a picture of a particular car, truck, or SUV’s overall safety. Shoppers can also lookup Insurance claim losses and driver fatality rates for more perspective.

Fortunately, there are many voluntary safety testing organizations in the world. The European New Car Assessment Programme or EuroNCAP, for example, can offer American buyers more information on cars they’ve tested. Some cars tested by these international organizations may not be identical to models sold in the U.S.

Most importantly, in 2017, the Porsche Cayenne received a five-star crash test safety rating from EuroNCAP. Similar models also rank highly as well. In short, a missing crash test safety rating doesn’t always spell danger.


The Humble History of the Crash Test Dummy