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Hot Topics - Sport Utility Vehicles

Consumer Reports ® says:

  • "Something unexpected happened during the government's recent side-impact crash tests, the results of which were released after our annual auto issue went to press last month. Two sport-utility vehicles -- the Honda CR-V and Isuzu Rodeo -- rolled onto their side when they were hit, with potentially serious implications. Despite the rollovers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded both SUVs its highest crashworthiness score, five stars." [From "Skewed safety scores for SUVs", May 1999].

  • "Last year we reported that two sport-utility vehicles, the 1995 and 1996 Isuzu Trooper, and its twin, the 1996 Acura SLX, had an unacceptable tendency to tip up in our emergency-handling tests. We petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to do two things: first, to establish a standard emergency-handling test to determine which vehicles have a higher rollover risk and to provide that information to consumers; and second, to open an investigation to determine whether the 1995 and 1996 Isuzu Trooper and the 1996 Acura SLX should be recalled." [From "Government won't investigate Isuzu Trooper", September 1997].

"Testing Consumer Reports" - Brill's Content reports (Sep. 99), "Ordinary readers have noticed that Consumer Reports appears to have an agenda when it comes to sport utility vehicles. 'You can see this judgmental approach to the SUVs,'says Steve Salavarria, a devoted reader who has subscribed for 11 years and keeps all his back issues. SUVs, with their low fuel efficiency, don't appeal to the magazine's asceticism, Salavarria observes. The magazine ran three stories in a year and a half that asked, 'How safe are SUVs?' The answer? '[Not] as safe as many people believe.' They guzzle gas, don't handle as well as cars, and pose a danger to other drivers, the magazine has written repeatedly. And Consumer Reports seems disdainful of their popularity: "If you're a North Dakota veterinarian who makes house calls, an avalanche spotter in the Rockies, a retiree with wanderlust and a heavy trailer to tow, a sport-utility vehicle may be just the ticket,"read the opening paragraph of a November 1997 story. 'For most other drivers, an SUV may be overkill.'"

"Trial Ordered in Suit Over Consumer Reports SUV Rollover Testing" - The Los Angeles Times reports (Sep. 23), "In a setback to the nation's most popular consumer magazine, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Consumer Reports' publisher must stand trial over Isuzu Motors Ltd.'s claim that the magazine rigged its vaunted vehicle-handling test in a deliberate campaign to destroy the reputation of the Isuzu Trooper sport-utility vehicle."

"The Anti-Business Mind-Set" - Investor's Business Daily editorializes (Sep. 21), "Suzuki and Isuzu are suing the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine for a combined $50 million in damages after the publication rated their sport-utility vehicles' safety as 'not acceptable.' The companies charge that the magazine's parent group, Consumers Union, deliberately changed the way it tested the SUVs to produce the rating. They say the magazine faced lagging sales and needed a controversy to help fund a new testing center it had built... Consumers Union has long distrusted free markets - its founders were Marxists. It needs to be reminded that businesses need to cater to consumers if they want to make money, not let them die."

"Making SUVs the scapegoat for policy" - Eric Peters writes in the Washington Times reports (Oct. 29, 1997), "Federal fuel efficiency rules - CAFE in bureaucratic argot - have had a dangerous, 'downsizing' effect on the nation's vehicle fleet for years. Today's smaller, lighter cars are demonstrably less safe than the larger, heavier cars of the past."

  • "Making SUVs the scapegoat for policy" - Consumers Union responds to Peters' Washington Times op-ed (Nov. 28, 1997), "The problem is that the lack of CAFE standards for light trucks, including SUVs, has brought us heavy, gas-guzzling behemoths that in accidents, wreak havoc on other vehicles and otherwise take a particularly heavy toll on the environment."

  • "Exposing the green and specious argument against SUVs" - A reader responds to the Consumers Union letter: "It is most unfortunate that Sally Greenberg doesn't do better research before launching attacks on sport utility vehicles (SUVs), especially since she represents Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports."

  • "Consumer Reports reveals its green roots" - A reader responds to the Consumers Union letter: "I rely on Consumer Reports to be impartial and objective in evaluating products. Now I won't be sure whether I am getting objective facts or facts tempered with environmental zealotry."

"Guardian of the Lawyers' Honey Pot" - Max Boot writes in the Wall Street Journal reports (Sep. 19, 1996), "Consumer Reports, after all, is a virtual bulletin board of big-money lawsuit ideas. The October [1996] issue, for example, will carry a report denouncing two sport utility vehicles -- the Isuzu Trooper and Acura SLX -- for allegedly being unstable in sharp turns. Two class action suits citing those findings, which were unveiled last month, already have been filed in Florida. Isuzu, which makes both vehicles, responded by taking out full-page newspaper ads and holding a press conference to denounce CU's tests as "unreliable and misleading." CU says its procedures are based on government standards, but Isuzu's Norihiko Oda argues that it is easy 'for the driver to knowingly or unknowingly influence the outcome.'"

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