I was shocked to see that for the first time in three years, not a single car from Toyota Motor was among the "Top Safety Pick" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
No Toyotas, but six top picks for Ford Motor (including four from Volvo, which is being sold apparently to China's Geely).
George Soros, the billionaire investor, could not have known Ford would lead all auto makers for Safety Picks when he bought 7.3 million Ford shares earlier in the third quarter. But this good news for Ford can't hurt his investment.
Soros, on the other hand, has not bought any Toyota stock this year. He's not telling me his investment plans, but my bet is he'll take a wait-and-see investment attitude on Toyota. There is work to be done at the world's largest auto maker.
To be fair, the IIHS has tightened up the Safety Pick criteria; it's tough to get a nod these days. This was necessary and inevitable. Last year 94 different models earned a Top Pick. Giving almost everyone an award sounds very Canadian, but it's not helpful in separating the best from the rest.
If we are really going to give kudos to an auto maker on safety, I'd put Subaru at the top of my list. Subaru had five top picks, with all of its 2010 models qualifying except the WRX version of the Impreza. Subaru also wins the efficiency award for having the most Picks from the fewest number of models.
Also give a bow to Volkswagen AG, which had five Top Picks. The Chrysler Group had four. Call it a starting point for Fiat in the rebuilding effort.
Something does seem a bit out of order when Chrysler has more Safety Picks that Toyota. In fact, Toyota was the only auto maker among the six biggest in North America without a single winner. Up to now, Toyota had Top Safety Picks in every year but 2007.
The Institute says the Camry almost qualified, but in the end received a "marginal" rating in a rear crash test: the seats and headrests provided less than desirable protection against whiplash.
For Toyota, there is always next year.
And for Soros, well, he can't wait to see what the latest Ford news does for his massive investment.