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With new 2023 criteria for automakers to win the coveted Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+, those achieving that status thinned from previous years. Severe side impact testing, nighttime advanced driver assistance testing, and tougher headlight requirements kicked many vehicles off lists they were regulars on year after year. And to make matters worse, only two American car companies, Rivian and Tesla, are the youngest companies on the list. 

Were any American automakers on the IIHS Top Safety list in 2021?

2023 Rivian R1T | Rivian

It’s both stunning and disappointing that there are not more American manufacturers on the IIHS list. Not that there are only two American-made vehicles on the list. For instance, the Toyota Tundra, Acura MDX, Hyundai Teluride, and so on are all American-made. They’re all on the Top Safety Pick+ list. 

But cars like the Bronco Sport, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Explorer, and Chrysler Pacifica all made the IIHS list in 2022. So GM, Ford, and Stellantis have at least one model. This year, none of them are. 

Do recalls factor into IIHS safety picks?

2023 Tesla Model Y | Tesla

Ford is becoming infamous for its quality issues, having the most recalls in both 2021 and 2022. So in some ways, it is not surprising the Explorer got bumped. Still, the IIHS tests are a result of how well vehicles do in crash testing and headlight safety standards. So quality isn’t so much in play.

This appears to be a matter of vehicles withstanding, or not, more rigorous safety principles. Well aware of the IIHS criteria, no engineering updates, if there were any, helped in passing the 2023 IIHS testing. Besides the obvious reason being occupant safety, there are the bottom line reasons for American manufacturers to incorporate these necessary changes.

Do IIHS safety picks really matter?

2023 Rivian R1T | Rivian

Recently, a data firm found that women account for 62% of new car purchases. There are also more female than male drivers, by 1.4 million. It also found that car safety is one of the top factors in determining which car to purchase. So whatever expense is spared by not making safety changes that align with IIHS criteria, these companies surely lose in sales. 

Bad news travels fast, and issues over safety tend to stick longer. So, while a certain make or model of car does well over several years, that one year it rates poorly for safety is hard to brush away. It can haunt a company for years. Though more spectacular, new coverage of Ford Pintos exploding in rear-end collisions is one such example. 

There are a lot of Japanese and South Korean winners

2023 Tesla Model Y | Tesla

Besides Tesla and Rivian; Acura, Honda, Hyundai, Infinity, Nissan, Toyota, Subaru, Genesis, Lexus, Kia, Volvo, and Volkswagen all are represented on the 2023 IIHS list with at least one model. Companies like Toyota and Acura have several. In categories where like minivans, there are only three that qualify, only the American one didn’t make it. 

We hope this is the last year that American legacy manufacturers are missing from the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winners.


Not a Single GM Vehicle Found On IIHS 2023 Top Safety Picks List