The Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5 were both awarded four stars in the latest European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP) collision test, which evaluates European model variants. Both Saab models were also awarded the highest possible score in the EuroNCAP new side collision test. According to the EuroNCAP, the Saab 9-5 “remains the safest (car) that EuroNCAP has yet tested” (www.euroncap.com ). Saab is gratified with these results, but will continue its emphasis on the real-life safety of its cars.
“The excellent results we recorded in the latest EuroNCAP test are obviously heartening, particularly since this type of crash test often receives wide publicity,” states Roger Malkusson, head of the Collision Safety Development Department at Saab. “But it is still important to bear in mind that individual crash tests cannot tell the whole story about the overall collision safety of a car. Our real-life safety philosophy puts priority on systems and structures designed to protect Saab occupants during a real-world collision, rather than on tests,” says Malkusson.
Saab’s own accident investigations, and data from organizations like the Swedish insurance agency Folksam and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), also play an important role in the development of safer cars. Investigations have demonstrated, for example, the need for a head restraint system that reduces the risk of long-term whiplash injuries. Saab became the world’s first carmaker to provide an active head restraint for front seat occupants in 1998. All Saab models are now equipped with the Saab Active Head Restraint (SAHR). (Folksam recently reported that whiplash is the most common long-term injury resulting from car crashes.)
Advanced Side Collision Airbags
Accident investigations have also shown the importance of effective side collision protection. Biomechanical studies of occupant injuries sustained in side collisions have resulted in a special design of the door post in the Saab 9-3 and 9-5. The center section of the post is very rigid to help prevent intrusion into the car’s interior cabin. In a side collision, the top part of the door post retains its position, deflecting energy to the lower portion which swings inwards like a pendulum. This reduces the risk of injury to the most sensitive parts of the human body — the ribs, head and chest.
All Saab models are also equipped with standard side airbags that help protect both the chest and the head of the occupant. The side airbags are made in two sections. When the airbag is activated, the lower section is inflated first to protect the occupant’s chest area, which is the part of the body that is the first to be subjected to impact in a side collision. When the chest is pressed into the lower section, the gas will be displaced upwards and fill the upper section to help protect the occupant’s head.
Saab’s Track Record of Safety
In the Folksam safety study of cars in the Swedish market, the Saab 900 and 9-3 are the only cars in their class to achieve the ‘Gold group’, which is what Folksam considers the top five vehicles. The Gold group also includes the Saab 9000. The Saab 9-5 is too new to be included in the Folksam statistics. The report on the Folksam study can be accessed on the Internet at www.folksam.se/forskning/trafik/index.htm . The 9-5 also was awarded an “acceptable” rating in the most recent U.S. IIHS crash test.
Additional results are found in the U.S. HLDI study (www.carsafe.org ) in which the Saab 900 was best in its group. According to the report, the Saab 900 scored lowest among all mid-size four-door cars for the relative frequency of injury insurance claims. This is the fourth consecutive time that the four-door Saab 900 had the lowest injury claim frequency rate in its group.
The Saab 9-3 model, which replaced the Saab 900 in the U.S. market in May 1998, builds on the occupant protection systems and structures of its predecessor by adding such features as the Saab Active Head Restraint (SAHR) system, second-generation driver and passenger front airbags, head and torso protecting side-impact airbags and a side impact force-deflecting pendulum “B” pillar system.
Although Saab is pleased with the results of these various studies, a vehicle’s safety performance is the product of many factors, including driver and occupant behavior, personal judgment and other variables. Vehicles tested in the EuroNCAP study are European models which may have different features than U.S. models.