Foreign vehicles have taken top honors in a survey of the safest 2007 models for the US, which was conducted by an influential insurance industry group. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety group mandated that all entrants must be equipped with stability control systems, a move that saw the Big Three, Toyota and Volkswagen dropped from the list.

The Detroit News reports that of the 13 models that made the cut, more than half were SUVs. Customers really appreciate cars that come out on top in the influential survey, more so than government crash test ratings. Plus, there’s always improvements in the institute’s criteria, as the harsher limits encourage manufacturers to increase safety improvements.

All 13 winners had to include side airbags, ESC and a dynamic test for rear crash protection. By comparison, government tests currently don't require side air bags, ESC or meeting rear crash tests as stringent as the ones conducted by the institute. The lack of initiative from the feds is surprising given the fact that side impact crashes are the second-deadliest after frontal crashes, killing 9,300 people in the US last year, which is equivalent to 29% of vehicle deaths. Ford and Toyota have said they will make ESC standard by the 2010 model year, with GM doing the same in the following year.