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Midsize Sedans Earn Low Ratings In Fender-Bender Tests

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A couple of months ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted fender-bender tests on a handful of minicars and subcompacts. The results weren't encouraging, with most scoring poorly, and only a few landing in the "acceptable" range. Now, the IIHS has conducted a second battery of tests -- this time on midsize sedans -- and unfortunately, the majority of those underperformed expectations, too.

Models tested included the 2009 Honda Accord, the 2009 Hyundai Sonata, the 2009 Mazda 6, and 2009 Nissan Maxima. According to the IIHS, each of those models showed improvement over its 2007 version, but none earned a rating of "good", based on repair costs associated with low-speed crash tests. The IIHS conducted four such tests with models -- front full, front corner, rear full, and rear corner -- then calculated repair costs for each crash and a weighted average for all four. To earn a rating of "good", the average repair cost needed to clock in at $500 or below. The closest any model came to that was the Mazda 6, with an "acceptable" $871 average repair bill.

Further down the chart, the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata ranked "marginal", at $1133 and $1265, respectively. Over $1,500 meant a ranking of "poor", and that's where we find the Nissan Maxima ($1,687), Ford Fusion ($2,207), and Chevrolet Malibu ($2,329). All the way at the bottom: the Pontiac G6, with repair bill that averaged just shy of $3,000.  In all, 17 models were tested, 11 of which received "poor" ratings; check the full results by clicking here.

While the improvement of the 2009 models seems promising, it's clear that automakers still have a long way to go in making vehicles easy to maintain (and insure). Then again, there are some who have a vested interest in keeping those repair bills high. So, question of the day: is this a problem? And if so, what's the solution?

[Edmunds, IIHS]

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  1. I began doing this kind of "bumper testing" years ago for Consumers Union. Then we hit head-on at 5 mph, and corners at 3 mph. The question is always simple. Is the damage going to cost more to repair than the incremental increase in new-car price for a zero-damage design. Also, what benefit (if any) would owners see in reduction of insurance premiums?
    Originally, the idea was that if the car was not functionally damaged, it was OK. That is, if the head lights remained aligned, the plumbing did not leak, and the bumper(s) could take another hit later on, we should be satisfied.
    Remember that there was a day when Detroit cars had the fuel filler hidden behind the rear license plate. Its hard to imagine how the bean counters sold that idea to the engineers as a major cost savings idea. I was then a design engineer and I complained - and was told to shut up.
     
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