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].
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.'"
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."
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."
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."
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
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."
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."
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  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.'"