Lincoln will offer rollover protection as an option on the 2003 Navigator sport-utility and other Ford Motor Co. vehicles in the 2003 model year, marking the technology's first high-volume usage.
The technology, supplied by Continental Teves Inc., is part of Ford's strategy to address light truck safety, a Ford spokesman said.
Lincoln announced the move at the recent New York auto show. The redesigned Navigator is scheduled to go on sale this summer, and the rollover protection option will be available later in the model year, a Lincoln spokesman said. Rollovers have become a concern in the past decade as a growing number of buyers switched from cars to pickups and sport-utility vehicles. Consumers like the view from the high seating position, but the vehicles' taller stature creates a higher center of gravity, which increases the potential for a rollover during sharp turns.
According to Ford, 50 percent of light truck fatalities involve a rollover vs. 25 percent for cars.
The auto maker said it also plans to add side-curtain airbags throughout its sport-utility lineup by 2005.
Lincoln is not the first to offer rollover prevention technology. Land Rover offers its Active Cornering Enhancement-an active suspension system from Delphi Corp. that reduces body lean-as an option on the 2002 Discovery Series II. TRW Inc. and Robert Bosch GmbH also are developing anti-rollover technology.
Continental's technology is an extension of its antilock brake and stability control systems. Height sensors on the front suspension measure body roll, or the tilt of the body as the vehicle turns, and the rate at which it changes.
If the measurements reach pre-determined levels, the system brakes the front wheel on the outside of the turn. When the wheel speed is slowed, the vehicle's lateral force causes the wheel to slide sideways, widening the turn radius. This softens the turn, straightens the vehicle and helps prevent a rollover.
Rollovers attracted much public scrutiny in the wake of the Ford-Firestone tire recall and resulting congressional hearings meant to investigate rollovers of Ford Explorers after a tire failure.