Parents warned over old Suzuki four-wheel drives

Suzuki four-wheel drives made before 1998 pose a serious risk to younger drivers, according to road safety experts.

The Dog & Lemon Guide issued the warning after 15 year old Auckland student Richelle Murphy died when she was partially thrown from a Suzuki Escudo four-wheel drive which rolled over.

Dog & Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said today:

“Virtually the entire range of Suzuki offroaders before 1998 has been linked to frequent deaths, often due to rollovers.”

“In the United States, pre-1998 versions of the Suzuki Escudo – which was also sold as the Suzuki Vitara, Suzuki Sidekick and Geo Tracker – had the highest rate of road deaths of any vehicle, according to a 1995 study. The two-wheel drive versions were horrific and the four-wheel drive versions are not much better.”

“It’s particularly concerning that older Suzuki offroaders are popular among people under the age of 25. This group is already a high risk. To put a young driver behind the wheel of one of these vehicles increases the risk of rollover accidents dramatically.”

Matthew-Wilson emphasised that this warning applied to older Suzuki vehicles only.

“Modern Suzuki vehicles are built to high safety standards. Although all offroaders have a higher rollover risk, modern Suzuki four-wheel drives are generally as safe as any on the road.”

The Dog & Lemon Guide warning covers two ranges of Suzuki offroaders:

  • The Suzuki Vitara, which is also sold as the Suzuki Escudo, Suzuki Sidekick, Mazda Proceed Levante and Geo Tracker. A 1995 study by the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the death rate in the two-wheel drive Suzuki Vitara/Geo Tracker was 32 times as bad as the death rate in a Volvo 240. Many of the Suzuki’s deaths were due to rollovers. The two-wheel drive version was unquestionably the worst, with a relative death rate of 298 deaths per 100,000 registered vehicles. The Volvo 240 had 10. The four-wheel drive Vitara/Tracker had 142 deaths per 100,000 registered vehicles.
  • The Suzuki Jimny, which is also sold as the Suzuki Samurai, Sierra and Holden Drover. American Consumer Reports, which blew the whistle on a rollover problem with this vehicle – and was then sued by Suzuki USA, had the following to say: “In the case Malautea v. Suzuki, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found that Suzuki had engaged in an ‘unrelenting campaign to obfuscate the truth.’ Suzuki deliberately withheld from the court ‘damaging evidence regarding General Motors’ refusal to market the Samurai in the United States.’...Suzuki’s own internal documents prove the company knew of the Samurai’s rollover problem, but marketed the car anyway. A Suzuki memorandum dated July 14, 1985 stated: ‘It is imperative that we develop a crisis plan that will primarily deal with the ‘roll’ factor. Because of the narrow wheel base, similar to the Jeep, the car is bound to turn over.’” Suzuki settled the Consumer Reports lawsuit out of court.

Release ends. For further information please call Clive Matthew-Wilson on 09 378 1476