An insurance industry study says some popular small pickup trucks are not as tough as advertising suggests.
In test results released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Toyota Tacoma fared the worst, sustaining $4,361 in damage over four low-speed crashes.The best of the lot, the Chevrolet S-10 LS, had $2,246 in damage. The other trucks tested were the Ford Ranger XLT ($2,952 in total damages), the Dodge Dakota Sport ($3,863) and the Nissan Frontier XE ($3,867).
The institute, which is sponsored by the insurance industry, said the trucks sustained the damage because most are equipped with rigid bumpers. By contrast, cars have bumpers that contain energy-ab-sorbing materials such as foam.
"People may think that pickup trucks are tough. But they quickly find out this isn't true when they bump into something at a slow speed and then have to shell out thousands of dollars to repair the damage," said Adrian Lund, the institute's senior vice president.
Truck makers took issue with the test results, as well as the group conducting them.
"The Tacoma meets all the general requirements for crash worthiness," said Julie Alfonso, spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. Last year the company sold 145,911 Tacomas, little brother to the full-size T-100 pickup.
Kyle Johnson, spokesman for General Motors, maker of the Chevrolet S-10, said the institute was releasing the data as part of a campaign to get the federal government to raise the bumper standard to 5 mph. It was at that speed in the early 1980s.
"The insurance industry is once again staging dramatizations in its selfish concern over bumper repair costs," said Johnson.
Before changing the speed, he said, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied the issue and determined that 2.5-mph bumpers were sufficient when weighed against the added cost of equip-ping passenger cars with 5-mph bumpers.
"They're just establishing the criteria by which to sway the public and media toward a 5 mph standard," said Toyota's Alfonso in reference to the insurance institute.
In its tests, the institute drove the trucks four ways: forward and backward into a flat barrier, forward into an angled barrier and backward into a pole.
Even at 5 mph, the lack of energy-absorbing bumper materials led to crash damage on the sheet metal of the Nissan and the Toyota during the forward-impact tests. In tests of the Toyota and the Dodge, the cargo beds on the trucks slammed into the passenger compartment when the vehicles were backed into the barrier.