Three of six new or redesigned vehicles fared poorly in the latest bumper-crash tests conducted by the insurance industry, and two others performed marginally.
Only one of the vehicles, the 2003 Mazda6, had an “acceptable” rating based on damage costs, according to results released Monday from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group funded by insurance providers.
The midsize 2003 Infiniti G35, 2004 Nissan Quest minivan and large Mercedes E class earned poor ratings for bumper performance, while the midsize 2003 Saab 9-3 and 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan received marginal scores.
The Arlington, Va.-based insurance institute, which conducts regular tests of new or newly redesigned vehicles, measured how the vehicles’ bumpers performed in low-speed crashes common in commuter traffic or parking lots. The tests were conducted at 5 mph and included impacts with flat barriers and poles.
Vehicles are rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on the cost of repairs.
Average damage per test ranged from about $340 on the Mazda6 to $1,480 on the Infiniti G35.
“The G35’s bumpers are a disaster,” said Adrian Lund, the institute’s chief operating officer. “Infiniti engineers attached an additional metal plate to the center of the rear bumper reinforcement bar to improve the car’s performance in the pole test, but it didn’t make much difference. There was extensive damage to body panels.”
The Quest sustained far more damage than its predecessor model, which the institute tested in 1999, dropping it from a rating of good to poor. The Saab 9-3 and Sienna also performed somewhat worse than earlier designs.
In a statement, Nissan - whose products include the Quest and G35 - said it believes the two models perform competitively among other vehicles in terms of repair costs.
“Obviously, the cost to repair bumpers is only one component,” the automaker said. “These tests ... are conducted to determine cost estimates to repair damage incurred in low-speed bumper impact tests and are not related to safety.”
Nissan also noted that the G35 was named Motor Trend magazine’s 2003 car of the year.
Average damage per test on the Mercedes E class was $1,300, second worst among the six vehicles. The car sustained nearly $3,000 in damage when it struck a pole in the rear at 5 mph because the bumper failed to protect the vehicle’s fenders and trunk lid, the institute said.
Mercedes spokeswoman Michelle Murad said the tests are not safety related, and that accident scenarios are infinitely variable.
“No one test will ever accurately portray the full capability of our vehicle,” Murad said.