The American Suzuki Motor Corp. has settled lawsuits brought by seven states by agreeing to publicize that its Samurai model may roll over in sharp turns.
The company, which is based in Brea, Calif., also will pay $200,000 to cover what it cost New York, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas and Washington to brings suits accusing Suzuki of false and deceptive advertising. The agreement was announced Thursday.In the settlement, which took effect Tuesday, the company made no admission of guilt or safety problems.
Safety of the Samurai came into question last June after Consumer Reports magazine gave the four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle a rating of "not acceptable." It said the Samurai was too short, narrow, light and high-riding to be safe and that it rolled over in a routine obstacle-avoidance test.
Consumers Union, publisher of the magazine, asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall the more than 150,000 Samurais sold in the United States since its introduction in November 1985.
The federal safety agency declined to recall the car, saying in September that the Samurai rollover rate was "within the range of most other light utility vehicles."
N. Douglas Mazza, vice president of the car company, issued a statement that said the agreement with the seven states "affirms that the Samurai is a safe vehicle and strongly supports the federal government decision that there is no reason to investigate the safety of the Samurai."
While Suzuki is bound, under the settlement, to include the warning in ads shown or published only in the seven states involved in the case, the company said it would be included in all national advertising.
New York Attorney General Robert Abrams said Thursday that the states took action because "the federal government has, once again, failed to act to protect the consumers of this country."
He said that under the settlement, Suzuki's print ads will have to include the statement: "This vehicle handles differently from ordinary passenger cars. Federal law cautions to avoid sharp turns and abrupt maneuvers which can cause vehicles of this type to roll over. Always wear your seatbelt. For specific details, please read your owner's manual."
A shorter version of the statement is required for television and radio ads, Abrams said.