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DaimlerChrysler Flunks Test

DaimlerChrysler's LHS/300M got the lowest rating - "poor"- in the newest crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

The biggest problem: the LHS' driver airbag deployed slower and later than any vehicle the institute has ever tested. That means the dummy "driving" the LHS did a near face-plant into the steering wheel before the airbag deployed. And that equates to a possible concussion, or worse, in a real person.

The results of the crash tests were made public Wednesday, but the car companies themselves get the results well beforehand. Engineers from the automakers are invited to watch the actual tests.

After the institute's latest round of tests - conducted in November - yielded the devastating results for DaimlerChrysler, the car company immediately initiated its own crash tests to check the results.

And Wednesday, a DaimlerChrysler spokesman insisted to CBS News that the slow airbag deployment in the Insurance Institute test was an anomaly; DaimlerChrysler's own tests show no problems. Therefore, the car company says it has no plans to make any changes to correct what the institute sees as a potentially serious safety problem.

The Insurance Institute has four possible safety ratings for the vehicles it tests: good, acceptable, marginal and poor. Here are the other results in the "large family car" category:

  • Receiving "best pick" labels as well as "good" evaluations: Chevrolet Lumina (1995-2000 models), Buick LeSabre/Pontiac Bonneville (2000 models) and Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable (1992-1999 models).
  • "Good" (but not "a best pick"): Chevrolet Impala (2000 models).
  • "Acceptable": the Pontiac Grand Prix/Buick Century/Regal/Oldsmobile Intrigue (1997-2000 models).
  • "Marginal": Dodge Intrepid/Chrysler Concorde (2000 models).
The Insurance Institute also tested similar-sized but higher-priced cars, called "large luxury cars." And there was lots of good news, here. American luxury cars as a whole did their best ever in these most recent crash tests, finally giving foreign luxury cars a run for their money as far as safety.

Specifically, the Cadillac Seville, which got a "poor" rating three years ago, improved its 2000 model to the highest rating, and earned "a best pick" award. Video of the 1997 Seville crash test shows the passenger compartment badly crumpling upon impact. But in the new test video, the 2000 model's passenger compartment stays largely protected and intact.

In addition to the Cadillac Seville (the re-designed 2000 model only), the Insurance Institute's other "best picks" include the BMW 5 Series (1997-2000 models); the Lexus LS 400 (1995-2000 models); and the Buick Park Avenue (1997-2000 models).

Receiving "good" marks in the luxury car category: the Lexus GS 400/300 (1999-2000 models). Yelding "acceptable" marks: the Mercedes E Class (1997-2000 models), and the Lincoln Continental (1995-2000 models). Labeled "marginal": the Infiniti Q45 (1997-2000 models).

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