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Automobile Safety: Innovation vs. Imitation

I’ve been watching the latest Mercedes Benz commercials with a wry smile. They are focusing on the safety aspects of their cars, features like lane-departure warning, side blind-zone alert, adaptive cruise control. Features that alert the driver to possible hazardous conditions and prevent accidents. Which is all well and good, but you see, I’m not sure the buying public understands that these are imitations.

Those features I mentioned are actually features Cadillacs have had for some time now. I’m not even sure if those titles are the correct names for the Mercedes options, but those titles are the ones assigned to Cadillac features that can provide every possible safety feature for people who drive long distances in their cars. And while other manufacturers also offer their versions of such options, they are imitating the American quality and innovation of Cadillac.

One feature you hear about, especially in SUVs, is called stability control. General Motors calls it Stabilitrak, and it is standard on every car built by GM. In fact, it is now standard on every car sold in the United States, since it has been mandated as a standard feature on all cars. What does it do? Stability control prevents lateral yaw of the rear end of the vehicle (fishtailing) by automatically activating the brakes of the vehicle to keep the rear wheels behind the front wheels. And yes, this is an American innovation.

Now, I admit, I am somewhat biased when it comes to cars, since I sell Cadillacs for a living. And while I wish everyone would make their next car a Cadillac, I know that many people would rather drive a less-embellished vehicle with other options. But no matter what you drive, you want it to be safe.

American cars are built to exceedingly stringent standards of quality. When you look at the required systems on an American branded automobile, you start to understand why the cost of driving has gone up. Systems like front-and-rear parking assist are meant to warn you when you are approaching something close to the car ... like a child or an adult, or another car. Many cars offer rearview cameras, to enhance the safety of backing up without having to wrench your neck around in the car.

And not every feature is mechanical. Take the recent introduction of using nitrogen instead of compressed air to inflate your tires. Nitrogen is a denser gas, and is less susceptible to temperature changes. A tire that is more consistent is less likely to wear unevenly, which means you are less likely to develop problems that could cause an accident.

So when you are looking for your next car, remember to ask for these features. And if you want the safest cars on the road, buy American.