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Status Report, Vol. 45, No. 4 | SPECIAL ISSUE: SAFETY RATINGS | April 15, 2010 Subscribe

Consumers are paying attention to vehicle safety

"You need all the safety you can get." This is what a respondent to a 1992 Institute survey said when asked about factors that are important when buying a new car (see "Can't get too much safety," May 23, 1992). The responses haven't changed much since then. Safety still is important. It's the second most important factor, behind only quality/reliability, in both the 1992 survey and a new one conducted for the Institute earlier this year.

Eighty-six percent of respondents to the 2010 survey said safety is a very important consideration. Only 2 percent said it's not important.

What's new this year is the proportion of respondents who know about vehicle crash tests and safety ratings. Back in 1992, only the federal government was supplying such ratings, but since then the Institute and others have begun rating vehicle safety and attracting extensive media attention to the comparative results. So it's not surprising that more than 3 of every 4 respondents to the 2010 survey said they've seen vehicle safety ratings.

The source of such ratings isn't uppermost in consumers' minds. Only 30 percent of respondents could name an organization that provides ratings (Consumer Reports was mentioned the most). Only 14 percent could name the rating of their present vehicle. Yet 78 percent said they'd seen safety ratings, mostly on the internet, in magazines, or on television. Sixty-seven percent said such ratings would be very useful in purchasing a vehicle or considering what vehicle to own.

These findings are in line with a 2005 survey conducted for Euro-NCAP in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, and Portugal. Safety and reliability were cited as the top factors in buying a car. Each was deemed important by 94 percent of EU respondents. Only 2 percent said these aren't important.

Almost half of the EU respondents overall, including more than 70 percent in Germany, said they had used or looked for information about the crash protection provided by various vehicle makes. The source of this information was fairly evenly distributed among car magazines, friends or acquaintances, and newspaper or television.

The Institute's telephone survey of 928 licensed drivers 18 and older was conducted in February 2010 by International Communications Research in Pennsylvania. The 2005 survey for EuroNCAP was conducted by Market & Opinion Research International. It involved face-to-face interviews, as well as telephone polling of more than 900 adults in each of the 7 EU countries.

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