Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 15, 2014

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An increasingly embattled General Motors made headlines last month, this time for the right reasons, when the Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain SUV topped the most-recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash ratings. GM, currently embroiled in a high-profile recall quagmire, likely welcomed the brief respite from the harsh spotlight of lawsuits and Congressional inquiries.

GM’s Ignition Switch Recall Damaged Reputation

Crash TestCurrently in the process of recalling over 2.6 million vehicles assembled with faulty ignition switches, the damage to GM’s brand is mounting. CEO Mary Barra was recently called before Congress to give testimony regarding how—and why—GM failed to remedy the ignition issues that have been a known problem since at least the mid-2000s. The ignition issues have caused at least 13 known deaths thus far.

IIHS Rates GM Equinox and Terrain Top Safety Pick

The IIHS ratings offer a stark contrast to GM’s current public profile, stating that “[w]hen it comes to mid-size SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward.” The Equinox and Terrain, both similar vehicles, have been on the market since 2004 and 2009 respectively.

Given the rating of “Top Safety Pick +,” the GM vehicles scored marks higher than Honda, a perennial safety leader. The IIHS recently implemented a new “small overlap” test that is meant to mirror a situation where the driver’s side of a vehicle hits a stationary object. Modifications to the 2014 model year Equinox and Terrain resulted in high marks on this particularly demanding test. The Honda Pilot, which received the highest ratings possible in every test other than the small overlap test, was at the bottom of the IIHS list.

Top Safety Rating Comes At a Good Time

The IIHS ratings have very little real-world impact on any liability GM could possibly incur after a crash, but the PR bump couldn’t come at a better time. The company is reeling from the ignition recall troubles, and CEO Mary Barra performed less than admirably in front of Congress. As one of the companies involved in the high-profile auto industry bailout of 2009, GM is under pressure from all sides. Its corporate structure and compartmentalized nature is a source of great political debate, and its ability to produce safe, reliable cars has been called into question in a very public manner.

While GM engineers—and management—certainly seem to have dropped the ball on the Cobalt recall, it appears that the company is still capable of producing a safe, reliable and innovative vehicle.