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Status Report, Vol. 48, No. 7 | September 27, 2013 Subscribe

Subaru, Volvo dealers report sales boost from good crash test ratings

Consumers are paying attention to results of the Institute's newest crash test, and two brands that did well in it have reaped higher sales, dealer surveys show.

To gauge the impact in the marketplace of the small overlap front crash test program launched last year, IIHS researchers surveyed 206 Volvo dealerships following the August 2012 release of the first small overlap test results. The Volvo S60 was one of only two midsize luxury or near-luxury cars to earn good ratings in the first round of testing. A second survey involving 275 Subaru and 275 Jeep dealers was conducted after results for small SUVs were announced in May. The Subaru Forester earned a good rating for small overlap front crash protection, while the Jeep Patriot was rated poor and the Jeep Wrangler was marginal (see “Small overlap crashes: New consumer-test program aims for even safer vehicles," Aug. 14, 2012, and "Redesigned Subaru Forester aces tough new crash test," May 30, 2013).

Interest in the S60 and the Forester increased in the weeks after the good ratings were announced, dealers reported. In the case of the S60, 49 percent of Volvo dealers reported stronger interest. Seventy-five percent of Subaru dealers said the same about the Forester.

Dealers reported a 41 percent increase in S60 sales and an 18 percent uptick in sales of all Volvo models in the week after IIHS announced the results, compared with the week prior to the release. Sales of the Forester, meanwhile, increased 14 percent, and sales of all Subaru models rose 11 percent, dealers reported. In contrast, Jeep dealers reported that sales were essentially flat, with a slight decrease of 2 percent for the Patriot.

"Safety sells," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "In this respect, the small overlap test is no different from other tests we've introduced over the years. Our ratings have prompted automakers to make improvements because they know consumers are paying attention."

In a 2010 poll, 86 percent of licensed drivers surveyed said safety is a very important consideration when buying a vehicle (see Status Report special issue: safety ratings, April 15, 2010).

In the IIHS surveys of dealers, good test results for a particular model seemed to have a halo effect for the entire brand. More than half the Volvo dealers said consumers were more likely to mention the brand's safety credentials after the announcement. Sixty-one percent of Subaru dealers said at least a quarter of their customers since the middle of May had mentioned the recent crash test performance as a reason they were considering buying a Subaru.

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