Video: Rating bumpers

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NBC News
updated 3/1/2004 11:39:03 AM ET 2004-03-01T16:39:03

From stop-and-go traffic, to the grocery store parking lot, there's always the chance you'll have a fender bender.

“We're seeing millions, no, not millions, billions of dollars of damage just from these minor fender benders,” says Adian Lund of the insurance institute For Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group, funded by insurance companies whose goal is to keep their costs down.

“We do four crash tests to look at how bumpers perform in the real world,” says Lund. “We do a front and rear into to a flat barrier, and we do a rear into pole crash test. Then we do a front corner into an angle barrier, all at five miles per hour.”

This time the Institute ranked six midsize 2004 cars based on the average repair costs on all four tests. First up, the Mitsubishi Galant. At $19,600 it's the least expensive car in the test.

“Now, this would have been much worse,” says Lund, “except that Mitsubishi did make a last minute design change to the bumper system changing how things are attached.”

While that change did make a difference just the angle test will cost $853 to repair. So the car gets the Institute'ssecond highest rating, “acceptable.”

The 2004 $20,000 Suzuki Verona and the $28,000 Nissan Maxima both also do poorly in that angle test. They both get a “marginal,” the second lowest rating.

But what about the Acura TL? Does the $33,000 car have a better bumper?

“It may not look too bad,” says Lund, “but the big problem is that the bumper system underneath this is badly damaged.”

It was so badly damaged, it will cost $1,381 to fix. So the expensive Acura TL only gets a “marginal.”

Meanwhile, the new $21,000 Chevrolet Malibu doesn't do well on any of the tests. It gets the Institutes lowest rating, a “poor.”

Finally, the Institute tests another Acura, the $26,000 Acura TSX. The Institute moves the pole over because it says Acura tried to outsmart it by inserting extra padding in the bumper right where the test pole normally hits.

The test produces $1,559 in damage, with $1,269 for the front angle test. The Acura TSX gets a “poor.”

All in all, there were no “good” ratings this time around, just one acceptable, three marginals and two poors.

Manufacturers of the cars tested say the institute's tests is not related to safety and their cars meet or exceed all federal standards for bumpers.

And what about what the Institute calls strategically placed padding in the ACURA TSX's bumper? Acura writes "there is absolutely no merit to the suggestion that padding was applied to the TSX bumpers simply to influence the IIHS test results."

“This isn't brain surgery,” says Lund. “Manufacturers know how to build better bumpers.”

In fact, the Institute says the least expensive car in this round -- the $19,000 Mitsubishi Galant -- has better bumpers than the more expensive cars.

“How much you pay for the car doesn't indicate how good your bumpers are going to be,” says Lund.

Manufacturers of the cars tested say the institute's tests is not related to safety and their cars meet or exceed all federal standards for bumpers.

And what about what the Institute calls strategically placed padding in the ACURA TSX's bumper? Acura writes "there is absolutely no merit to the suggestion that padding was applied to the TSX bumpers simply to influence the IIHS test results."

“This isn't brain surgery,” says Lund. “Manufacturers know how to build better bumpers.”

In fact, the Institute says the least expensive car in this round -- the $19,000 Mitsubishi Galant -- has better bumpers than the more expensive cars.

“How much you pay for the car doesn't indicate how good your bumpers are going to be,” says Lund.

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