Skip to content

Nice Paint or Nice Airbags, Your Call

Posted in Posts, and Syllabus Schedule

Safety, what is it worth? As an OEM you obviously have to produce a car to a safety standard that will allow it onto the road legally. But, how much should you invest in producing a safe car? Engineering hours aren’t cheap, and making a safe car takes lots and lots of them.

       The new Subaru Forester is the first of around 13 vehicles to get a “good” rating on new, more stringent, IHSA safety test. One has to wonder though, for Subaru, was it worth it? How many fewer cars would Subaru sell with a “4 star” rating vs a “5 star” rating?

Decisions like these are faced by automakers every day. Quality, in any area, is not cheap. What people see and touch is often prioritized above what is underneath. For example, would you rather buy a “5 star” safe car with paint that will people would bet it’s the latter. l after 2-3 years, or a “4 star” car with flawless, show quality, paint. For most people, Automakers make decisions like this, although maybe not to this exact level.

Further complicating this decision is market considerations. Safety will rank as a higher priority for a new minivan buyer then for the buyer of that hot new sports car.  All of these is just one additional thing automakers must consider.



  1. cookg15

    Along with fuel efficiency, I think safety will be one of the biggest selling points for cars moving forward. As stated, consumers interested in buying a minivan for the family rather than the businessperson buying car to drive to work will have different tastes. I think that the Forester will see a fair amount of success with family-minded buyers based solely on the fact that it was the first to achieve a “good” rating in the new crash test. It will be interesting to see if regulations of safety and fuel economy conflict in the future. Perhaps some companies will reduce weight and thereby the safety of a car in order to make it more fuel efficient and vice-versa.

    May 18, 2013
  2. kuveke

    Part of the reason we care about safety is because their are huge SUVs and trucks on the road. Their is a market for safety and people who want safe cars will buy bigger cars. However this has the effect of people in smaller cars caring more about safety because there are more huge SUVs and trucks on the road. In Europe where cars are smaller people are less focussed on car safety because the accidents aren’t as bad. As a disclaimer I’ll admit that people in the United States drive more highway miles leading to more serious accidents, but I stand by my point. With car fleets needing to reach the 50 mpg fuel economy cars may begin to shrink a little leaving people to in turn care a little bit less for safe cars.

    May 18, 2013
  3. In the past, when faced with safety features as options for which they had to pay, consumers opted not to buy. Have “star” ratings changed that? – will consumers really shun a 3-star vehicle (under one or another specific crash test, not the whole shebang) for one with a higher rating? Manufacturers seem to care, and are betting money on the distinction mattering. As an economist, I take that as evidence that they believe it really matters (presumably on the basis of concrete data). What, however, do the data look like? That I don’t know, and I’ve not researched.

    May 18, 2013

Comments are closed.