Are Genesis cars and SUVs safe?
After Tiger Woods crashed a Genesis GV80 SUV in the Los Angeles area Tuesday, causing devastating leg injuries, the safety of the little-known luxury brand made by Korean automaker Hyundai was thrust into the spotlight.
On social media, some people speculated that the SUV's safety features may have saved the golf legend's life, given that authorities said he was traveling at a high speed. Others questioned whether the vehicle should have done a better job of protecting Woods.
Independent assessments of Genesis vehicles have given them high marks for safety.
"Genesis vehicles, as well as other models from its parent company Hyundai Motor Group, have generally performed quite well in our safety tests, which include crashworthiness, crash avoidance and headlight evaluations," Joseph Young, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said in an email.
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While new vehicles are substantially safer than vehicles from decades earlier, they are not impervious to deadly accidents. More than 36,000 people were killed in car crashes on American roadways in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
What's more, small increases in speed can make a collision much deadlier. A crash that is easily survivable at 40 mph can be fatal at 50 mph or more, according to a recent study conducted by IIHS and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Genesis GV80 thrust into the spotlight
That Genesis is in the conversation at all is a surprising turn of events for a brand that has struggled to prove its relevancy since Hyundai spun it off as its own brand several years ago.
To be sure, Genesis has won accolades from critics for its design and reliability. The GV80 was one of three finalists for the 2020 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award.
But only 6% of luxury car shoppers considered buying a Genesis in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with 22% for the leader, BMW, as well as 19% for Audi, 19% for Lexus and 17% for Mercedes-Benz, according to Cox Automotive, which owns Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.
Genesis U.S. sales declined by 23% in 2020 to 16,384, making it 30th out of 31 major brands for the year, ahead of only Fiat.
"Their sales have struggled," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader. The brand "has a lot of building to do."
Sales have disappointed from the beginning due to the fact that its lineup consisted exclusively of passenger cars until recently, Krebs said. Passenger cars have fallen out of favor in recent years as Americans embraced SUVs and pickups. The GV80 is supposed to help reverse the tide for the brand.
Genesis was hoping to draw more positive attention with its sponsorship of last weekend's Genesis Invitational, a PGA Tour event hosted by Woods. The brand gave a GV80 to the event winner, Max Homa, and loaned a GV80 to Woods for his personal use. That was the vehicle he crashed.
Despite its sales struggles, from a safety perspective, Genesis has performed well.
In its widely followed 2021 safety awards – coincidentally announced Wednesday – IIHS gave its highest honors, Top Safety Pick+, to the Genesis G70 and Genesis G90 luxury cars.
Notably missing were the brand's other two vehicles: the G80 and the GV80.
But that's because both of those vehicles were too new for IIHS to test in time for its initial 2021 Top Safety Pick announcement. They both went on sale in the fall.
"We are actually in the process of testing the GV80 right now. In fact, our last crashworthiness test of the GV80 is on the calendar for today," IIHS spokesman Young said Tuesday. "So, we’ll likely have results out sometime next month.
The Genesis GV80's safety features include:
• 10 standard airbags, "including a center-side airbag unique to Genesis that deploys between the front seats," Genesis spokesman Jarred Pellat said in an email.
• Advanced driver assistance systems, including forward-collision alert avoidance, evasive steering technology and an interior camera that alerts the driver if they're falling asleep.
• New vehicle architecture, known in the industry as a "platform," built with a passenger compartment reinforced with "high strength steel for rigidity and safety," Pellat said.
The 2021 Genesis GV80, which carries a starting price of nearly $50,000, also has a 14.5-inch horizontal touchscreen on the center console and an 8-inch digital instrument panel.
Some safety critics have accused automakers of distracting drivers by integrating larger and larger screens into their vehicles. There was no immediate evidence that Woods was distracted when he veered off the road on Tuesday.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Genesis GV80 in Tiger Woods car accident: Was SUV safe?