Originally Posted by ssgunner
Is it me or is the frame of newer cars really thin or cheap that they can't stand a minor impact? I mean it wasn't that hard but hard enough to create a dent.
It's a combination of several things, including:
1) The shape of modern vehicles: most current vehicles tend to bow out from top to bottom to the point that parts of the body extend well beyong the wheel boundaries. This provides a slight bit more hip and shoulder room while avoiding excess frame material at the bottom and keeping the top narrower. It also increases side impact safety by creating a more dome shaped surface along the side walls.
2) The lack of body cladding: remember when vehicles used to have all kinds of plastic strips and trim along the sides? You had vehicles with all kinds of rough and tumble looking material that looked like it could protect you from an RPG. Vehicles like the Chevy Avalanche and the Pontiac Aztec were all in on that stuff.
That went out of style in the last decade in favor of a cleaner surface. That means there's nothing to protect against a door edge hitting a vulnerable body panel.
3) Plastic and steel are out and aluminum is in: In the 90's, while SUVs and pickups still went with steel, there was a move away from steel body panels on cars. Saturn even had a major ad campaign about how things like shopping carts, car doors and your kids baseball would bounce right off. The problem was, it's really hard to paint match a steel hood and a plastic door. In addition, a minor accident would rip apart a plastic panel instead of leaving a dent. Finally, plastic became far more expensive to produce when oil jumped up over $100 a barrel.
Now, aluminum is seen as a way to have the light weight of plastic, but with the fit and finish of steel.
The problem is, aluminum is far softer than steel, so it's more vulnerable to dings. On the plus side, that often prevents paint shatter, so those dings can often be repaired without paint work.