DaimlerChrysler AG's Jeep Liberty and Ford Motor Co.'s 2002 Explorer sport- utilities were rated "poor" in bumper crash tests by an insurer- funded group, each sustaining more than an average $1,300 in damage.
The Toledo-built Jeep Liberty, introduced in April and one of Chrysler's best-selling vehicles this year, averaged $1,417 in damage in the four 5 miles-per-hour tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said yesterday. The Explorer, the best-selling sport-utility and subject of lawsuits over fatal accidents involving Firestone tires, averaged $1,358 in its tests.
The tests are designed to imitate the kind of impact that often occurs in commuter traffic and parking lots.
In a statement, Ford said it designs its bumper systems to meet government standards, company requirements and customer expectations, not the tests of the institute.
DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman Angela Spencer Ford said the Liberty met all federal requirements for safety including bumper tests.
The worst result of four tests on the Liberty - causing more than $1,700 in damage - occurred when it backed into a flat barrier, shattering the rear window and damaging the rear windshield wiper motor and tailgate.
Adrian Lund, the institute's chief operating officer, said the Liberty performed so poorly because of its spare tire mounted on the back. The spare extends beyond the bumper, so the bumper doesn't absorb any of the impact.
For 2004, GM looks strong again: a new Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Century. The new Chevrolet Warrior will be half Trailblazer, half pickup. Chevrolet also gets a modern SUV; Cadillac, a "crossover," or car-platform-based SUV.
Ford will have a new Mustang, which won't have to compete with the Camaro and Firebird, which GM is dropping--at least for now.
Chrysler has lots of new stuff, Merrill says, but it looks like too much to me. Expect a Neon-sized car built on a Mitsubishi platform and new rear-wheel-drive designs for the larger Chrysler and Dodge sedans. A Chrysler CS crossover is coming, and the Durango SUV gets a badly needed redesign. Two halo vehicles seem likely: a pickup with a daring futuristic design, plus a European-built coupe, the Chrysler Crossfire, built with Mercedes parts. As I said, this plan seems ambitious.
For 2005 GM has big product launches: Chevrolet Cavalier, Impala and Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Am, Cadillac Seville and Buick Bengal roadster. That is a lot of cars.
In 2005 Ford is to get a new Taurus, a Taurus-based crossover, and some new small Focus models, possibly a new Lincoln sedan and new Ranger pickup.
Chrysler gets a new Grand Cherokee in 2005 and a long overdue Grand Wagoneer (a larger Jeep with three rows of seats).
Keep in mind that plans as far ahead as 2005 are subject to change. Ford will surely try to push up some vehicles. The Taurus and the Ranger are candidates, but there are some reports that Ford may push back products, like the Mustang, to save money. GM may slow down, as new product boss Robert Lutz makes changes to improve the breed. It's going to be exciting for those with the right stuff.