Reuters is reporting that the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on Tuesday criticized automakers for faulty designs in small sport utility vehicles that failed to perform well in crash tests by the insurance group.
``Manufacturers like to promote utility vehicles with an image of ruggedness, but they're far from rugged,'' the institute's Brian O'Neill said in a statement. ``The designers obviously paid little attention to the basic purpose of bumpers, which is to prevent damage in low-speed impacts.''
He cited the results from the four crash tests, performed to gauge how well bumpers can prevent damage in minor impacts.
The Subaru Forester suffered average damage of $552 in the tests, followed by Chrysler Corp.'s Jeep Wrangler ($648), Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s CR-V ($800) and Jeep Cherokee ($944). Rounding out the list were the Isuzu Amigo ($1,264), Toyota Motor Corp.'s RAV4 ($1,266) and Kia Motor Corp.'s Sportage ($1,827).
The crash tests -- driving a vehicle's front and rear into a flat barrier, its front into an angled barrier and rear into a pole -- were performed at five miles per hour.
O'Neill said a major problem in the design of all the vehicles except the Forester and Cherokee is the spare tire mounted on tailgates that stick out beyond the rear bumpers. In some rear-end crashes, that design meant instead of the bumper making first contact, the spare tire took the impact, resulting in thousands of dollars in unnecessary damage to rear windows and tailgates.
None of the sport utility vehicles tested sustained less than $1,000 damage in the rear-into-pole impact, with the Sportage suffering almost $3,000 in damage, he said.
``The cost to repair the damage to the Sportage after the four tests amounted to more than a third of the vehicle's purchase price,'' O'Neill said.
The repair costs reflect June prices, the institute said. The damage total for the Wrangler, which was second-best overall after the Forester, came to $2,590.