Research suggests that the seats in two-thirds of new cars currently on the market fail to provide proper protection in the event of a rear-end shunt – the most common type of accident.
In its defence, the motor industry claims it invests millions of pounds to improve safety and that many aspects of the test are ‘too crude’.
A total of 114 different cars were tested by Thatcham, the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, with 18 rated good (16%), 27 acceptable (24%), 27 marginal (24%) and 42 poor (36%).
Models given a poor rating in the test included the BMW 3-series, Jaguar X-type, Honda CRV, Toyota Corolla, Renault Clio, Citroen C2/C3, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Honda Jazz, Land Rover Freelander and Volkswagen Polo.
Matthew Avery, head of the Thatcham test programme, said: ‘These results are very disturbing. Some manufacturers and many motorists will be shocked by the findings.
‘Some models were thought to offer proper protection but when we put them to the test on our dynamic sled the seats did not perform as expected.’
He added: ‘Manufacturers are certain to be embarrassed at our findings. They will have to make significant changes if they wish to really protect people in a car crash.’
But Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) representatives said they were concerned over the Thatcham results.
Chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: ‘The idea that we fit seats to new cars that are unsafe is nonsense. The reality is that millions of pounds have been invested in improving safety. ‘Thatcham’s own research suggests that nearly three-quarters of whiplash injuries could be prevented if drivers adjusted their head restraints properly.
‘We understand the insurance industry’s desire to drive down the £1.6 billion costs in whiplash compensation but we need a little more balance in the debate.’