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Old 10-06-2005, 06:34   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford questions truck-car impact standards

Ford questions truck-car impact standards

By Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY

For three years, the auto industry has struggled to come up with ways to reduce the risks that trucks pose to cars in crashes. Collisions between the two types of vehicles often injure or kill car passengers because trucks are bigger.
But Ford Motor recently has sought to disband industry efforts to set voluntary standards for how automakers can reduce deaths and injuries, according to three automaker officials involved in the talks.

They say Ford told colleagues in an industry work group that the process of jointly reducing the risks trucks pose to cars in crashes is too costly. A related group has also faltered in efforts to reduce the risk of being ejected and killed in a rollover crash.

Without work toward safety tests, there would be no way to certify that the risks larger vehicles pose to smaller ones have been reduced. Abandoning standard-setting for rollover ejections would mean it could take years longer for all automakers to install sensors that deploy side curtains in a rollover. The inflatable curtains help keep passengers inside the vehicle.

The effort to set voluntary standards grew out of a 2002 agreement between top automakers and Jeffrey Runge, then chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The idea was that the fastest, most efficient way to make sport-utility vehicles and pickups safer was to leave the regulation to industry. But concerns about the costs of redesigning vehicles to meet standards and about product liability have nearly killed those efforts.

The industry "promised that they could be trusted to solve this problem on a voluntary basis," says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Brian O'Neill, who co-chairs a committee overseeing the efforts to make vehicles more compatible. "Ford is dragging its feet, and I'm trying to change that."

Dan Jarvis, a Ford spokesman, says, "We're proud of the extensive compatibility research we've already provided to the compatibility working group" and will continue to participate.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents most top automakers, announced in 2003 that the industry had agreed to make the front ends of trucks and cars line up so collisions between the two would be less damaging and deadly. Some trucks would need beams to keep smaller vehicles from sliding under the trucks. The industry also agreed to make all vehicles meet tougher side-impact crash tests, most likely by adding head-protecting side curtains.

Alliance spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist would not comment on Ford but says, "There's been a lot of discussion of how to move forward."
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