US road safety regulator the NHTSA is set to introduce more stringent safety testing for the 2011 model year.
The new tests will make it more difficult for new cars sold in the US to earn a five-star safety rating and will make it easier for consumers to compare vehicles.
The new ratings given to cars will represent a combination of that vehicle’s results from frontal crash, side impact and rollover tests.
A completely new test has been introduced that simulates a single-vehicle impact with a telegraph pole or tree. The test will also include evaluations of electronic safety gadgets, such as collision warnings.
NHTSA says that the changes mean three-star rated vehicles will provide average or close to average injury protection. A total of 55 new 2011 vehicles, including 24 cars, will be tested. These include the BMW 5 Series, Volkswagen Jetta and Infiniti M.
It will not be possible to compare the new scores with those of the old system so the list is made up of both brand new models and older vehicles likely to be purchased in large numbers next year.
Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said: “This new testing program significantly raises the safety bar for all vehicle manufacturers and will provide consumers with a great deal more safety information about the cars and trucks they want to buy.”