Every automaker but Toyota kicks the can down the road on safety.
Last year, the feds were closing in, as they say. Forward collision protection (FCP) with auto-braking had been around for a number of years, and it was starting to become a hot topic. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety then completed a long-term test proving the effectiveness of the system. Their method was hard to poke holes in. They took a group of models that offered the technology as an option and tracked the number of front to rear crashes these models had with and without the system in the real world. The results were that the cars with FCP were crashing 40% less.
Next, the brass from the automakers had a pow-wow. Among themselves, they decided that, rather than have the U.S. government agency controlling auto safety mandate that these systems be made standard, they would all announce they would do it willingly. But not until 2022. Toyota opted out. Instead Toyota announced that its Toyota and Lexus Models would start to include FCP on every trim of all its top-selling models starting in the 2017 model year. Let’s just say that Toyota now sits alone at the safety compliance meetings during lunch breaks.
So what does this really mean for shoppers? Let’s start with the company’s top-selling model, the 2017 Toyota RAV4, which is one of 2017 models Toyota has made the technology standard on. This affordable compact crossover is neck and neck with the Honda CR-V for the sales title in the largest non-truck segment. When a shopper is in a Toyota dealership, the salesperson can tell them “Every RAV4 has FCP, a very important safety system. This vehicle’s competitors don’t care about the safety of customers who have a limited budget, so they only install it on the pricey trims.” Now, we are not saying that is completely true, but it is darn close. In fact, Toyota did the same thing up until this month.
For an unknown reason, Toyota is not making the system standard right away on every one of its 2017 models, and a few vehicles will be excluded entirely, the 2017 Lexus GX, Toyota 4Runner, and Toyota 86. We suspect it is because the GX and 4Runner will be change in 2018. The 86 is an extremely low-volume sports model, which may be a factor. Toyota has added it to the 2017 Corolla and RAV4, as well as many other affordable models, like the Yaris.
Toyota and Lexus will also benefit in another way from making the system standard on so many popular vehicles. Shoppers who check out the IIHS site to look for Top Safety Pick + models to consider will find that the Toyota and Lexus models that earn those rankings are at the top of every list starting in 2017. That is because IIHS is now going to give priority ranking to the models that have FCP standard on all trims. In the past, these lists were alphabetized.
There is one other way that Toyota and Lexus will benefit. In reviews, writers (like me) will be careful to note when testing a $75K Euro-lux model to mention that, “FCP is optional. Unlike the $15K Toyota Yaris, which has this technology on all trims at no added cost.” You’ll only have to suffer through it for five years.
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