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9 Minivans Fare Poorly in Bumper Crash Study

November 12, 1996|From Associated Press

Nine popular minivans fared poorly in tests to find out how sturdy the bumpers are when they strike a barrier at 5 mph, according to an insurance industry study released Monday.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the vans' front and rear bumpers by crashing them into barriers four times. The 1996 Ford Aerostar had the worst damage, averaging $1,438 per crash.

The 1996 Honda Odyssey had the least damage, averaging $474.

"Being called the best among this group just means acceptable performance, not good," said Brian O'Neill, president of the institute, which is sponsored by insurance companies.

The institute also tested the 1996 models of the Nissan Quest, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mazda MPV, Toyota Previa and Chevrolet Astro, the 1997 Pontiac Grand Sport and 1995 Ford Windstar.

The Astro finished second to worst with an average of $1,280 per crash.

Only the Windstar and the Quest had no damage in at least one of the four test crashes. The Quest averaged $547 in damage overall and the Windstar $500.

The group tested the front and rear bumpers, crashing them into flat barriers the width of the vehicle, running the front bumper into an angled barrier and running the rear bumper into a pole.

The Trans Sport, Previa and Aerostar sustained more than $2,000 in damage in the rear pole crash alone.

The institute said there are no rules on how much bumpers should protect vans. Cars must be able to sustain a 2.5-mph crash with no damage to the body. The Odyssey was the only van tested that was classified as a car and required to adhere to the standard.

Ford spokesman Terry Bresnihan said the tests gave a distorted view because pole crashes rarely happen but cause far more damage than other tests.

"Ford's minivans meet internal requirements, which are more stringent than any required by the federal government," he said.

Bresnihan also accused the insurance institute of pushing its own agenda.

"Their primary objective is to reduce payouts by member companies and they're not very interested whether that causes the car-and-truck-buying public to pay more for vehicles," he said.

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