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New Consumer Reports study finds many automakers taking advantage of buyers by packaging proven safety features with premium add-ons

CR calls on automakers to stop sales practices that put safety systems out of reach, and Congress to require lifesaving technology on all new cars


WASHINGTON — A new study by Consumer Reports finds that vehicle buyers often must pay thousands of dollars extra for lifesaving technology that should come standard.


Two safety systems, blind spot warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, have been found to significantly reduce crash, injury, and fatality risk on the road. Despite the clear safety benefits, these technologies don’t always come standard on new vehicles, and too often come only with the purchase of a pricey trim level or as a premium add-on.


Using online shopping tools on manufacturer websites, CR reviewed the 15 top-selling passenger vehicle models in the U.S., and found that blind spot warning is a standard feature in model year 2020 on the base-level trim of just three of the 15 top-selling models and is completely unavailable on one model. On the remaining 11 models, the median increase in the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) to equip a vehicle with blind spot warning was $2,510, with one model, the Ford F-150, requiring a $12,285 upcharge to include the system.


CR also found that pedestrian detection, an enhancement of AEB, comes standard on 13 of the 15 top-selling models. Of the two remaining models, pedestrian detection is not available on one model, the Ram 1500, and it is available but not standard on the Chevrolet Silverado 1500—at an additional cost of $16,735, an increase of 60 percent over the base MSRP. A previous CR analysis released in May found that 39% of all 2020 vehicle models lack standard pedestrian detection.


“Many automakers are upselling on the basis of safety, taking advantage of buyers who are just trying to protect themselves and their families,” says Ethan Douglas, senior policy analyst for cars and product safety at Consumer Reports. “Automakers should immediately stop this kind of sales practice because it limits who can benefit from these safety technologies—and safety shouldn’t be treated as a luxury item.”


“Pickup trucks in particular should come with pedestrian detection standard because the tall hood reduces the field of vision, possibly increasing the chance of hitting a pedestrian,” adds Douglas.


CR is urging Congress to pass the 21st Century Smart Cars Act, a bill by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) that would require blind spot warning, pedestrian detection, and other crash avoidance technologies to come standard on all new vehicles.


CR also has taken steps of its own to encourage automakers to add these safety systems to their products. Among other measures, CR gives extra points to a vehicle’s Overall Score for tested models that have forward collision warning, highway-speed AEB, city-speed AEB with pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning as standard equipment across all trim lines.


For the full study, click here.


Media contact:
Adam Winer, Communications, Transportation Policy for CR
Phone: (201) 638-2069 | Email: Adam.Winer@Consumer.org




Note: This release was updated to reflect that the increased cost to the Ford F-150’s base price to add blind spot warning is $12,285. This was changed from $15,805 based on information received from Ford after the release was issued.


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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.