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When Bumpers on Cars and SUVs don't line up, Part II:

Less damage to Fords

In both car-into-SUV and SUV-into-car tests, the vehicles with the lowest repair costs, by far, were the Fords. This is almost entirely because the bumpers on the two Fords match up better than the bumpers on the other vehicles. Virtually none of the damage from the Explorer-into-Taurus impact was apparent during a cursory inspection after the crash. The damage was hidden underneath the plastic bumper covers.

"It's likely that motorists in collisions like this would assume there wasn't any damage," Lund says. "An owner would have to go to a repair shop for disassembly of the bumper system to determine whether damage had occurred and how much. So in many cases the damage would go undetected and unrepaired. This shouldn't pose a safety problem but could worsen the damage in any subsequent low-speed collision."

Pattern of damage

The other pairs of vehicles sustained much more damage than the Fords, mostly because their bumpers don't line up. The bumpers on some vehicle pairs completely bypassed each other in the tests. "This was the pattern," Lund points out. "When there was underride and override between the car and SUV bumpers, that's when we saw a lot more expensive-to-repair damage than most people would associate with a 10 mph impact. Bumps at this speed involving Volvos and DaimlerChryslers produced more than $6,000 damage to the two vehicles."

Most of the repair costs from these tests weren't because a heavy SUV inflicted damage on a lighter car. The SUVs also sustained expensive damage. Even when one SUV hit another SUV, the damage was costly.

Toyota RAV4 strikes RAV4

The Institute conducted another 10 mph crash test to show that the problem isn't confined to crashes between cars and SUVs. In this impact, the front of a Toyota RAV4, a small SUV, hit the back of another RAV4, producing more damage than in any of the car-into-SUV or SUV-into-car crashes. "When one RAV4 struck the other, it didn't engage the rear bumper because this SUV doesn't have a rear bumper. Instead the striking RAV4 hit the spare tire mounted on the tailgate," Lund says. "This spare tire was the 'antibumper.' It didn't absorb any energy. It didn't prevent any damage. In fact, it caused most of the damage to both vehicles. The spare damaged the hood and grille of the striking RAV4. It also crushed the tailgate on the struck RAV4."


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