At Toyota, the Camry, RAV-4 and Prius-V were all dropped from the recommended list after receiving a "poor" rating in a crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS' small overlap crash tests simulate how well vehicles protect occupants when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another object, such as a tree or utility pole.
It remains to be seen whether the move will have any lasting impact on the vehicle's sales. So far this year, Toyota has sold 318,990 Camry models, making it the best-selling car in the US and the third most popular vehicle in the country.
"The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) periodically develops new, more severe or specialized tests that go beyond federal requirements. With the small overlap test, the Institute has raised the bar again, and we are responding to the challenge," Toyota told CNBC in a statement. "We are looking at a range of solutions to achieve greater crash performance in this area."
The survey also showed that Ford, which last year ranked 27th, continues to have problems with its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems. In addition, "Several EcoBoost turbocharged V6 models have poor reliability as well. Almost two-thirds of the 34 Fords and Lincolns in our survey got scores that were much worse than average," the report said.
The brand's C-Max Energi was rated its worst model; at Nissan, the Pathfinder earned that designation.
"Nissan has not been one of the top manufacturers in terms of reliability, so they actually have multiple problems," Fisher said.
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Fisher noted the interesting thing about Audi's improved rating was that they have high-content vehicles with high-end pieces, electronics and power equipment, and they are "still getting it right."