Collision industry warns of unsafe bumpers

April 8, 2010 5:33:36 PM PDT
Fender benders happen every single day and now we are all being warned about being penny-wise, but pound-foolish when it comes to replacing a damaged bumper.

The Collision Repair Association of California is warning drivers their replacement bumpers after an accident may not be as safe as the original ones from the manufacturer.

It says cheaper bumper parts mostly from Asia are on thousands of cars, potentially making the vehicles less safe in another crash.

"Insurance companies are putting huge pressure, even today, right now, to continue to use these," Lee Amaradio from the Collision Repair Association of California said.

Auto parts expert Toby Chess demonstrated how difficult it is to saw through a manufacturer's bumper part. However, one made in Asia was fairly easy to slice through. On average, aftermarket parts from overseas are $35 cheaper than the ones from the manufacturer.

The insurance industry says it's unfair to label all aftermarket products as inferior. It points out California law already mandates that replacement car parts be comparable in quality and safety.

"Insurance companies don't want to put unsafe parts on a car. They are our customers. We want to protect them," Sam Sorich from the Association of California Insurance Companies said.

A crash test by MGA Research shows how well a manufacturer's bumper system holds up. Similar parts made in Asia were put to the same test, but they collapsed.

Having a weaker bumper bar could affect the airbag's timing. In a collision, you don't want it deflating by the time your head gets to the steering wheel. Just a fraction of a second could make a difference.

Assemblyman Dave Jones, who is running for insurance commissioner called on insurers to identify the cars, notify customers and replace the unsafe bumpers.

If not, he's ready with legislation that forces them to do so.


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