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Auto industry to cooperate on crash safety initiative, pledges new effort in letter to regulator

Updated:
DETROIT (AP) _ An auto industry group announced an initiative to reduce injuries from collisions between sport utility vehicles and cars, perhaps by setting voluntary safety standards.

The 10-member Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers promised ``a strong commitment to move forward expeditiously'' in a letter sent Thursday to Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The letter said it was too early to predict what automakers will do to increase safety. But Runge and others have expressed concern about the dangers SUVs pose to smaller cars, since in crashes the higher and heavier SUVs can strike cars above their bumpers.

The automakers promised in the letter to address the issue.

``The industry looks forward to working with NHTSA to ensure that government and industry are moving in the same direction on enhancing vehicle-to-vehicle crash compatibility,'' the letter said.

The effort could lead to the ``development of voluntary standards, such as those previously developed for side air bags,'' said the letter, which was also signed by the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Insurance Institute is a safety research group financed by auto insurers and based in Arlington, Va. The Alliance is a Washington-based lobbying group that represents 10 automakers, including General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

Ann Smith, a spokeswoman for DaimlerChrysler, said Friday that the letter followed a pair of technical workshops this week in Washington that were put together by the two industry groups.

She said the auto industry will form teams to study front-to-front and front-to-side collisions between vehicles of different sizes.

``Now you've got all sorts of things in between _ a lot of trucks are getting lower to the car and car-based vehicles are getting bigger,'' Smith said.
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