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Consumer Reports restores Toyota Camry as a top safety pick

Luis Martinez cleans a Toyota Camry in preparation for the Chicago Auto Show February 9, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress

By Paul Lienert

DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp erased a black mark on its reputation for quality on Thursday when Consumer Reports restored a recommended rating for the flagship Camry sedan less than two months after the influential magazine had pulled the rating due to poor crash test results a year ago.

The 2014 Camry was retested this month by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its rating raised from poor to acceptable in a year-old IIHS test procedure.

The group said the Camry was rated a top safety pick "after Toyota made changes to the structure of the front end for 2014 models built after November 1," according to IIHS spokeswoman Kristin Nevels.

Consumer Reports said it was reinstating its recommended rating "based on the Camry's performance in the latest IIHS small frontal-overlap test". The procedure is designed to emulate a collision involving the front corner of a vehicle and another vehicle or large object.

In late October, the influential magazine said it would no longer recommend the Camry, the Prius v hybrid or the RAV4 sport utility vehicle because they received "poor" ratings last December in the IIHS small frontal-overlap test.

Consumer Reports is one of the most widely trusted names for consumers shopping for cars, and companies try to ensure their vehicles earn the magazine's coveted "recommended" rating.

The IIHS, a non-profit group funded by the insurance industry, last year increased the rigor of its tests.

Consumer Reports waited to adjust its buyer recommendations until it saw how the entire industry was affected by the test.

The magazine does not recommend consumers buy a car that fares poorly in any crash tests.

Through the first 11 months, Camry was the best-selling passenger car in the United States, with sales of 378,520.

In its latest round of testing 2014 models, the IIHS said 22 vehicles received the highest safety rating and another 17, including the Camry, got the next highest rating.

Among the redesigned 2014 models that received the top safety pick+ rating were Honda Motor Co's Acura MDX and RLX, Nissan Motor Co's Infiniti Q50, the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Highlander.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Ken Wills)