Rooney's Bumptious About Bumpers

They're Different Heights

A weekly commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney:

You might not think that those of us who do 60 Minutes set out every day to do good deeds and root out evil, and I don't want to sound self-serving but, in addition to trying to attract an audience and making a lot of money for ourselves, we like to think we make things better sometimes.

Recently, I set out to do a report on car bumpers. I was dismayed to find that 29 years ago, in 1970, Mike Wallace and producer Joe Wershba did the exact same piece on bumpers that I was going to do in 1999.

Back then, Mike Wallace asked an auto industry official if Detroit could come up with a standard bumper height and size. The man told him: "Well, I think that we not only can do so, but we have to do so."

Did Mike stir the automobile industry to make better bumpers? Sorry. Mike did no good at all. Car bumpers are worse than ever.

They no longer stand out from the car - they're built into it now. Hit the bumper now, you hit the car. They don't protect anything except the income of automobile parts departments. The tire hanging on the back is the bumper for some cars - it doesn't help.

Bumpers have covers now. The bumper, the bumper cover and the headlights on a car can cost a thousand dollars - often more than what the bumper was put there to protect.

The yard of one car repair shop was littered with old bumper covers. What the bumper covers covered was often a piece of plastic, or fiberglass, even foam. Very flimsy stuff.

They keep passing laws to make cars safer. How about a law making our money safer?

What we need is a law forcing car manufacturers to put every bumper on every vehicle at one standard height off the road.

If you paid $20,000 for a new car, totaled it and wanted to put it back together again with new parts, it would cost you $125,000 in parts. Manufacturers don't lose money in their parts department.

I'm sure by this time next year, the automobile industry will have fixed the problem it has with bumpers and we here at 60 Minutes will be able to take great satisfaction, once again, having saved the world from itself.

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