European styling is migrating to U.S. showrooms as global automakers race to comply with new EU safety rules.
Tougher European Union regulations take effect next year aimed at better protecting pedestrians who are struck by vehicles. As a result, the next generation of many vehicles sold globally will have higher hood lines and lower bumpers -- changes designed to soften the blow to a pedestrian's head and legs during a crash.
The prevalence of vehicles designed for global markets means these styling changes are making their way to the United States on many nameplates due out this year.
Take the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion, expected to arrive in volumes at U.S. dealerships later this year.
"From the side, the new Ford Fusion looks like a box," said Aaron Bragman, an IHS Automotive analyst.
Compared with the previous Fusion, the redesigned car's front end is taller and the hood is higher, to shorten the distance a pedestrian would fall if hit, he said.
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and 2013 BMW 3 series also are global models with EU-compliant front ends.
The new pedestrian safety rules are part of a worldwide effort coordinated by the United Nations and supported by the global auto industry to standardize auto design regulations.
The EU has signed on to the pedestrian safety rules, and U.S. regulators are working to set hood and bumper rules this year.
In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians were killed in the United States from being struck by vehicles, accounting for about 12 percent of all U.S. vehicle-related deaths that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Safety advocates say those numbers are significant.
"Pedestrian protection is one of the last frontiers of vehicle safety," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety in Washington. But he added: "NHTSA has been reluctant to regulate it because it so closely relates to styling."