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Effects of small overlap frontal crash test results on vehicle sales: more evidence with small SUVs

Cicchino, Jessica B.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
September 2013

Objective: On May 16, 2013, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced small overlap frontal crash test results for small SUVs. The Subaru Forester was one of two small SUVs to receive IIHS’s TOP SAFETY PICK+ award by earning a good or acceptable rating in the test, and the Jeep Patriot was one of five to earn the lowest rating of poor. A survey of U.S. Subaru and Jeep dealerships was conducted to determine if dealers had experienced a change in interest from consumers in the Forester and Patriot models.
Methods: Between June 17 and July 16, 2013, managers at 275 Subaru and 275 Jeep dealerships in the United States were interviewed.
Results: Following the mid-May release of the test results, more Subaru than Jeep dealers (75% vs. 12%) reported an increase in the number of customers calling or visiting the dealership because they were interested in purchasing a Forester or Patriot model, respectively. A higher percentage of Subaru than Jeep dealers reported an increase in the number of customers naming the safety performance of the automaker as a reason they were considering one of their vehicles (61% vs. 8%), and that customers had mentioned the performance of the automaker in recent crash tests (77% vs. 12%). Subaru dealers that reported sales figures experienced an 11% increase in the sales of all Subaru models from the week before the announcement to the week after and a 14% increase in Subaru Forester sales, compared with a 1% increase in sales of all Jeep models and a 2% decrease in sales of the Jeep Patriot.
Conclusion: Consistent with prior findings for the Volvo S60 model, dealers reported that the Subaru Forester model’s good performance in IIHS’s small overlap frontal crash test positively influenced consumer opinion and sales soon after the results were released. However, sales of the poorly rated Jeep Patriot and interest in it remained unchanged. Improving vehicle design to increase crashworthiness not only improves vehicle safety but also increases sales.