Recent surveys have shown that safety is the most important factor people cite when buying a new car, giving special credence to NHTSA crash tests and IIHS Top Safety Picks and driving consumer perceptions of brands. With revised standards in place, the IIHS has revealed its 2010 Top Safety Picks and some big name automakers, such as Toyota and BMW, are conspicuously absent.

Last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick list contained the names of 94 cars from automakers around the globe. Tightening the standards of its Top Safety Pick award for the second time since its introduction in 2006, the IIHS has cut the number of top picks to just 27, and that has left some leading automakers out in the cold. For the first time in three years, not a single Toyota model graces the Top Safety Pick list, making it the only member of the top five automakers in the U.S. to not receive an award. The tighter restrictions also led to the specification of certain models and trim packages. For example, the only Chrysler Sebring that gets a Top Safety Pick designation is the four-door model with optional stability control.

Technically, the automaker that took home the most awards was Ford, which garnered six. However, four of them went to Volvos, a brand Ford is in the process of selling to Chinese automaker Geely, and a fifth was a Lincoln. Subaru and Volkswagen, meanwhile, tied with five each, however, one of the Volkswagens was actually the Audi A3. Chrysler came in third with four picks across its three brands. Ranking by brand instead, Subaru comes out on top with five followed by a tie between Volvo and Volkswagen with four each, then a tie between Honda and Dodge with two each.

Parsing the list, it's also interesting to notice the overlap of the same vehicles under different brand names. Both the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger won as did their Dodge Journey platform mate. The Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS twins did as well. The Volkswagen Golf, Tiguan, Jetta and Audi A3 are all built on the same platform, as are the Subaru Impreza and Forester and Legacy, Outback and Tribeca. Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse are on the same platform, as are the Volvo XC90 and S80 and Honda Civic and Element. So, while 27 vehicles were picked, really only 14 platforms were actually chosen. Ranked by platform, Volkswagen gets the most picks followed by a tie between Subaru and Chrysler then a tie between Ford, GM, Honda and both Ford and Subaru again.

The 2010 IIHS Top Safety Picks:

Large cars

Buick LaCrosse
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Volvo S80

Mid-sized cars

Audi A3
Chevrolet Malibu (built after October 2009)
Chrysler Sebring (four-door version with optional electronic stability control (ESC))
Dodge Avenger (with optional ESC)
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Passat sedan
Volvo C30

Small cars

Honda Civic (four-door version with optional ESC; excludes Civic Si)
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Subaru Impreza (excludes Impreza WRX)
Volkswagen Golf (four-door version)

Mid-sized SUVs

Dodge Journey
Subaru Tribeca
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs

Honda Element
Jeep Patriot (with optional side thorax airbags)
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)