Six of seven sport utilities and luxury cars ranked for repair costs by an insurer's group, including Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s 2003 Outlander and Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo XC90, received the lowest possible grade.
Honda Motor Co.'s 2003 Element fared best in a series of four crash tests at 5 mph and received an "acceptable" rating, the second-best grade given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Outlander, Volvo XC90 and the Element are new models.
Four luxury cars, including the 2003 Cadillac CTS made by General Motors Corp. and Ford's Lincoln Town Car, got the institute's lowest grade of "poor." The crash tests included front and rear hits into flat barriers, a frontal crash into a barrier at an angle and hitting a pole from the rear.
"There was an opportunity for both Mitsubishi and Honda to put a priority on the bumper designs" because they are new models, said Adrian Lund, the chief operating officer of the trade group.
"Honda did so. Mitsubishi didn't pay any attention to damage resistance in designing the bumpers on the Outlander, so owners are going to be spending a lot of money for repairs."
In the four tests, the Outlander sustained damage of $4,202 and the Volvo XC90 $4,622. Damage to the Outlander was about twice the $2,149 sustained by the Element.
Three automakers questioned the results. Mitsubishi said the results were " inconsistent with our own internal tests," and Nissan Motor Co. spokesman John Schilling said "it's difficult for these tests to reflect the real world." Ford said the tests "may not be representative of the type of damage that occurs in real-world situations."
The trade group bases its ratings on a formula that grades performance on the two flat-barrier tests and all four combined tests, spokesman Russ Rader said. The formula calls for cars that have damage of more than $3,250 to receive a "poor" grade. The XC90, as a mid-sized SUV, had to have more than $4,000 damage to get the lowest rating, he said.
Among luxury cars, Nissan's 2003 Infiniti Q45 and Honda's 2002 Acura RL also received the worst rating, based on damage of $5,778 to the Nissan and $4,411 to the RL. The Cadillac model sustained $4,688 of damage and the Town Car $4,589.