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'Consumer Reports' Says Mitsubishi Montero Limited Poses Rollover Risk

Aired June 20, 2001 - 10:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take folks right now to New York -- Yonkers, New York, we believe this is -- and where "Consumer Reports" is about to issue its not-acceptable ratings for a number of cars. Stay tuned.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

R. DAVID PITTLE, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, CONSUMERS UNION: As soon as we have analyzed all the data and the surrounding issues. And, as Linda said, in addition to this news conference, the full article will be published in the August issue of "Consumer Reports" and will be available online this afternoon at ConsumerReports.org free as a public service.

The safety concern we are reporting today surfaced during routine tests conducted at our 327 acre auto test facility in East Haddam, Connecticut. At this facility, we test more than 40 new cars and trucks each year.

This is a photograph of the operating part of the facility. I'll just point out some of the elements of it. This is a skid pad. That skid pad is used for evaluating tires, which allow acceleration tests for cars. This straightaway is used for breaking tests. We do emergency avoidance maneuver tests in this area. We have a handling course that puts a vehicle through quite a test so that we can see how the vehicle will handle when you're driving it.

We have off-road courses back in these trees to go through mud and rocks and over logs to see how vehicles like SUVs can handle the rough terrain.

One other point: This asphalt here is carefully maintained so that it has the frictional characteristics of a good highway. All along here, that is maintained to make sure that the frictional characteristics are the kind of characteristics that a consumer might experience when they're driving down the highway.

In our -- excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is anyone else having trouble hearing in the back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we can't -- we have no sound. You know, we're not...

(CROSSTALK)

PITTLE: Oh, I'm sorry. I -- would you like me to go through that part again or...

(CROSSTALK)

PITTLE: No. OK, but I'll stay here. Nonetheless. Well, I know what you didn't hear.

In our regular test program, we evaluate the emergency handling characteristics of vehicles by testing them in our emergency avoidance maneuvers. "Consumer Report"'s avoidance maneuvers are designed to simulate real-world emergencies in which a driver steers sharply to the left into an adjacent lane to avoid hitting an obstacle or a person in the road and then quickly back to the right to avoid oncoming traffic, and then back into the original lane.

So, as you can notice from the diagram at the top, if you follow the yellow arrows, the vehicle is coming down. The little orange dots are the cones that define the course. The vehicle comes down between those cones. The obstacle -- if I can point to it for a minute -- the obstacle area is right in there. So when the driver is coming down the bottom lane, sees the obstacles, steers around it on the path, the general path that those yellow arrows are, to avoid the oncoming traffic, steers back into the original lane. That's the purpose.

We consider that kind of left turn, right turn, left turn to be the kind of experience that a consumer -- could confront a consumer suddenly without notice.

Our other test engineers run two types of avoidance maneuvers: our short-course and our long-course tests. In both, the test vehicle is driven at progressively faster speeds when entering the course so that we can assess its handling characteristics under emergency avoidance conditions.

For today's news conference, we are focusing only on the short- course test. This is a test we use to help us evaluate emergency handling of all SUVs, minivans and light trucks.

The maximum speed at which a test vehicle completes the short course without hitting cones is not as important as what happens when the vehicle exceeds its handling limits. Typically, this means the vehicle will slide or skid sideways, knocking over cones. In most circumstances, this is a more controllable situation than a tip up or a rollover. Because of the possibility of rollover, the vehicles are equipped with safety outriggers to protect our test engineers.

On May 16, in accordance with our protocols, three of our auto engineers each tested seven SUVs in our long-course -- short-course avoidance maneuver. Each test consists of an engineer driving the vehicle on multiple runs through the course. During those tests, the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited tipped up in eight out of nine test runs at speeds of 36.7 miles per hour or faster. Tipped up means two wheels are off the ground at the same time.

HARRIS: Now, folks, we have been listening here to this "Consumer Reports" press conference. We were hoping that they would be the ones to break the news to you. But we're going to jump the gun a bit.

As we said coming into this, they've been testing a number of cars. And we expect them to come up with a not-acceptable rating for a number of cars. The number turned out to be one. It is this one: the Mitsubishi Montero.

They said they tested some seven different SUVs out of 40 new vehicles tested. And the Mitsubishi Montero had -- did not come through with passing -- or flying colors, as you see there, with the emergency-handling characteristics in real-life situations.

We'll of course have some more on that. And we also expect to get some response from the makers, Mitsubishi. So stay with us for all that.

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