South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia and German carmaker Volkswagen lead the insurance industry's annual list of the safest new vehicles, used by safety-minded consumers looking to buy a new car.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognized 66 vehicles Wednesday with its "top safety pick award" for the 2011 model year, the most-ever awarded by the Virginia-based group. The number was more than double the 27 vehicles selected last year.
The winners were chosen for protection in front, side and rear crash tests. To qualify for the award, the insurance industry group also requires that the vehicles have anti-rollover electronic stability control, or ESC, and receive top scores in roof strength tests.
Subaru, which received five awards, was the only automaker to win in every vehicle category in which it competes. Toyota, which has grappled with several high-profile recalls during the past year, scored with its Avalon, Corolla, Sienna, Highlander, Venza, Lexus and Scion models.
Hyundai Motor Corp. and its affiliate, Kia Motors Corp., and Volkswagen AG and its Audi brand received the most awards with nine, followed by eight awards apiece for General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. Chrysler received five awards.
The awards, used in advertising to attract car buyers, bolster Hyundai and Volkswagen as they attempt to build a larger foothold in the United States.
Hyundai's Genesis sedan, Sonata midsize and Santa Fe and Tucson sport utility vehicles picked up awards, while Kia was recognized for the Optima midsize car, the Forte and Soul small cars, and the Sorento and Sportage SUVs. Volkswagen won plaudits for the Jetta and Jetta SportWagen. Audi's A3 and A4 sedans and Q5 SUV also made the list.
Hyundai said the award was particularly sweet for the Sonata, which also received the top score of five stars in the government's crash test program.
Ford's picks include the Ford Taurus, Fiesta and Flex; and the Lincoln MKS, MKZ and MKT.
Institute president Adrian Lund credited automakers for "quickly rising to meet the more-challenging criteria for 'Top Safety Pick' " and predicted more winners would be added next year.
Top Safety Pick winners
BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)
Cadillac CTS sedan
Infiniti M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive)
Mercedes E class coupe
Mercedes E class sedan
Audi A4 sedan
Chrysler 200 4-door
Mercedes C class
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Forte sedan
Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except 4-wheel drive)
Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
Volkswagen Golf 4-door
Volkswagen GTI 4-door
Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010
Kia Sorento (built after March 2010)
Jeep Patriot (with optional side torso air bags)
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety