Ford Expands Inflatable Seatbelt Availability

The safety features war is on: Honda may be the first automaker to make backup cameras standard across most of its lineup, but Ford is focusing on backseat safety. The automaker is expanding the availability of its rear-seat inflatable seatbelts.

The industry-first safety feature, which debuted on the 2011 Explorer, combines a shoulder seatbelt and a tubular-shaped airbag that inflates in a crash. Ford announced today that the seatbelts will be available on the Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi sedans for 2014.

According to Ford, the inflatable belt distributes crash forces up to five times better than a traditional seatbelt, decreasing head and neck motion in a crash. "The inflatable belt is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries," Srinivasan Sundararajan, safety technical leader with Ford's research and advanced engineering group, said in a statement.

Ford said adding the equipment to the sedan Fusion makes sense because Fusion shoppers focus on safety features, citing that 72% of Fusions sold are equipped with the cross-traffic alert rear sensing system and 58% with a backup camera.

The inflatable seatbelts are a $190 option across the 2014 Fusion lineup, down significantly from the Explorer's $595 option price. They're currently available on the Ford Explorer, Fusion, Flex, Taurus and Lincoln MKT and Lincoln MKZ. The 2014 Fusion is on sale now.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer