Like the man said, "If you've got it, flaunt it." And Honda
The star ratings, called for in a pending highway bill under what's been termed the "Stars on Cars Act," are not yet mandatory for any automaker. (Remember your Schoolhouse Rock? "I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. ... " It's not a law yet.) But the fact is, Honda's model-year 2005 vehicles already ace the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) tests for crashworthiness. So the company figured, "What the heck? Might as well use the good news to sell a few extra cars."
If the bill ever becomes law (and regardless of whether it does, for Honda), cars would have their safety ratings listed on their window stickers -- the ones of "sticker price" fame -- in the form of a range of one to five stars, with five being the best rating awarded by the NHTSA. According to TheWall Street Journal report on Honda's initiative, no Honda currently scores fewer than four stars. While that's not entirely accurate -- the 2005 Honda Civic two-door actually scored three stars for front side impact -- it's pretty close to the truth. After scanning the NHTSA's ratings page, I came up with the following data:
Counting by categories (five per car), rather than by separate cars, and considering the most representative brands for each of the Big Six automakers in the 2005 model year, Honda is indeed the best by far, with just the single three-star rating. Nissan
And in case you're wondering how the eternal standard-bearer for automotive safety did, Volvo -- which Ford now owns -- did exactly as you'd have expected it to do: It scored no fewer than four stars in any category. But the Swedes had better look out: Honda is breathing right down their necks now, and by later this year, it's going to be awfully hard for auto shoppers at Honda outlets not to notice.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares in any company mentioned above. He drives a 1998 Chevy S-10 but has a secret love for Nissans (back when they used to be called Datsuns).