WASHINGTON - The 2000 Cadillac Seville and Lexus GS 400 are running neck-and-neck, but not for a coveted crown, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The two luxury sedans are in a virtual tie for having the worst bumpers among seven large cars tested recently by the institute, the research arm of auto insurers. Each car sustained more than $2,700 in damage in the institute's four 5-mph bumper tests. They include running the front into a flat barrier, angling the front into a barrier, running the back into a flat barrier and driving the rear into a pole.
Institute President Brian O'Neill said none of the seven cars' bumpers performed well. He said the bumpers generally are too close to the car bodies to absorb energy without allowing damage to body panels, lights and other parts.
He noted, for example, that a decorative grille is incorporated into the bumper of the Chrysler LHS. The car's estimated $633 repair bill for the front-into-a-flat-barrier test was the highest in that category.
The Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue performed best among the seven. The LeSabre sustained just $85 in damage when its rear was driven into a flat barrier.
Others tested were the Chevrolet Impala and the Dodge Intrepid.
The institute, which often commends automakers who react to crash testing by improving designs, had just the opposite reaction to the new Cadillac. O'Neill said institute tests on the 2000 Seville caused damage that would cost about 40 percent more to repair than damage done to the 1997 model.
Robert Lange, General Motors' director of product safety engineering, said the institute tests are conducted in 'a lab environment' to assess insurance premium rates and 'have no relevance to the real-world safety performance of vehicles.'
Lexus Division spokesman Nancy Hubbell said it is 'highly unlikely' the institute tests will lead to any Lexus design changes.