WASHINGTON - Five compact pickup trucks heavily advertised as being rugged and tough are weak in a high-speed crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said last week.
None of the five achieved a 'Good' rating - the best possible score - for occupant safety in a 64kph crash.
The institute said the 1998 trucks all failed to live up to manufacturers' claims about energy-absorbing front ends and advertising-created images of toughness and durability.
The institute is funded by the insurance industry.
'Toughness doesn't necessarily translate into good performance in a high-speed crash,' said the institute's president, Brian O'Neill.
The two vehicles that scored highest, the Toyota Tacoma and the Ford Ranger, still won only 'Acceptable' ratings.
Next came the Chevrolet S10 with a 'Marginal' rating, while the Dodge Dakota and the Nissan Frontier scored 'Poor.'
The results also apply to sister vehicles, including the Mazda B series, near-twin of the Ranger, and the GMC Sonoma and Isuzu Hombre, both variants of the S10.
Automakers vigorously disputed the test results.
Chrysler said the institute's data from the crash dummy in the Dakota test appear to be simply erroneous.
Ed Lewis, a spokesman for Nissan North America, said that 'the auto industry as a whole' questions the validity of the institute's tests.
General Motors said that measurements of forces on the crash dummy in the S10 were all in the same range as those from other vehicles that in the past have received 'Good' ratings from the institute.
'The institute's crash ratings are quite subjective and rely heavily on occupant compartment intrusion,' said GM spokesman Kyle Johnson. 'However, intrusion is irrelevant if it does not cause injury.'