WASHINGTON—Confident that its new mid-sized sport-utility vehicles are "significantly more stable" than the models they replace, General Motors Corp. has opted to no longer voluntarily post federal rollover-warning labels on them.
A spokesman with GM's regulatory affairs office in Washington, D.C., told Tire Business that, technically, the auto maker's model year 2002 SUVs have wheelbases that are longer than the standard issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requiring the warning labels. NHTSA states that SUVs with wheelbases—or distances between the center of the front wheel and that of the back wheel—of 110 inches or less must carry illustrated warning labels declaring they have a "higher rollover risk" than standard vehicles.
That stipulation was required because the increased height of SUVs gives them a higher center of gravity, making the vehicles more prone to rollovers.
However, the new GM models—the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada—have 113-inch wheelbases. That's about six inches longer than their predecessors and enough to get them around the NHTSA label requirement.
"The combination of the longer wheelbase for our mid-sized SUVs, along with other innovations, made us confident that the warning labels were no longer needed," the spokesman said. "They're significantly more stable than the vehicles they replace...."
According to an Associated Press story, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler A.G.'s Chrysler unit have said the warning labels serve a public good and that they will continue placing them in their sport-utility vehicles—even in those that do not require them.
GM said even though it dropped the labels for its mid-sized SUVs, those vehicles' owner manuals still contain various warnings.
The new mid-sized GM SUVs' center of gravity is lower than previous models, the GM spokesman continued, and that along with the location of the tires and some innovations in their suspensions make them more stable.
"We feel we have the most extensive tire integration program in the industry," he added. "We offer a warranty program on tires, and closely track tire performance through that program as well as on the road."
GM has said its smaller Chevrolet Tracker and Chevy Blazer will continue to carry the rollover warning labels.
The issue of SUV stability and rollovers came to the forefront last summer after Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled some 6.5 million Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires. Many of those came as original equipment on Ford's best-selling Explorer SUVs. Evidence has indicated those tire lines have experienced tread separations.
Regulators investigating the tire failures claim the Firestones are linked to at least 174 deaths in the U.S.