Aug 3, 2007

Four of eleven luxury cars sustain substantial damage in minor bump tests

Photo Galleries: Audi A4 Avant; Infinti G35; Lexus ES 350; Saab 9-3 convertible

Arlington, Virginia – Tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that bumpers, even on expensive cars, don’t resist damage in low-speed impacts. The Infiniti G35, the worst performer, sustained almost $14,000 (all prices US) damage in a series of four tests conducted at three and six mph (4.8 and 9.6 km/h) by the IIHS. The Saab 9-3 was the best, sustaining $5,243 damage. Only three cars sustained less than $6,000 damage, while four would cost more than $10,000 to fix.

“The Infiniti was a disaster, and even the Saab (9-3) sustained way too much damage in these low-speed impacts,” says IIHS senior vice president Joe Nolan. “There shouldn’t be much or any damage in collisions at these speeds, especially to expensive and presumably well-made cars.”

The IIHS found several reasons why the bumpers didn’t absorb the energy of the impact before damaging other expensive parts like fenders and hoods: the bumpers on colliding vehicles often don’t line up vertically so they don’t engage; they don’t stay engaged during an impact; their aerodynamic styling may allow them to slide under the bumpers of other vehicles; and the bars under the bumper covers may not be big enough or are too flimsy to provide much protection from damage.

The IIHS conducted four low-speed tests: full front and rear into a barrier designed to mimic the front or back bumper on another vehicle, at six mph, plus front and rear corner impacts at three mph.

Parts costs also were a factor; in the rear full-width test, for example, the A4’s damage was confined to the bumper cover, but the cost of the cover alone was nearly $600, before labour. Headlights were damaged in 15 of the 22 frontal tests conducted; it cost $847 for the G35’s replacement headlight and $1,046 for the Lexus ES, not counting installation charges. “If an automaker is going to charge this much for a headlight, it ought to do a better job of shielding such an expensive part from damage in a minor bump,” Nolan says.

For a complete list of test results, visit

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