The nation's top automotive safety official -- a prominent critic of rollover-prone SUVs -- on Jan. 6 praised the industry's renewed emphasis on selling and enhancing the safety of passenger cars, which he said were the safest vehicles for Americans, according to the Detroit News
.Dr. Jeffrey Runge, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), specifically applauded Detroit automakers, who are rolling out more than 10 new passenger carmodels this year in an effort to reclaim lost share in the U.S. car market. He made the comments during a tour of the North AmericanInternational Auto Show.Following his viewing of the Ford display, Runge noted with approval the Dearborn automaker's declaration that 2004 will be the "year of the car." "They seem to be more eager to get some other designs out there, which is encouraging," Runge said. "People wantutility. If they can give them a passenger car with utility, then it will certainly help a lot with their sales. Since we know in fact carsare the safest vehicles designed, it's encouraging to see they are working to get those designs out into the marketplace."Runge said NHTSA would continue its own efforts on SUV-car "compatibility." The agency may overhaul passenger-protection rules for side-impact crashes. "I hope we'll be able to share data and come up with a solution that's a win-win," Runge said, according to the Detroit News
. "But having said that, I've promised to the American public that we would not just sit by and wait for the automakers to do whatever they're going to do. We're proceeding down our course."