Consumers Union (CU) said it supports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's new dynamic rollover test, which the consumer group says measures the total vehicle performance rather than just its width and height.
``Consumers Union has been pushing for these rollover tests for 15 years,'' said R. David Pittle, senior vice president for technical policy at CU, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine. ``We are very pleased that NHTSA has adopted a rigorous testing protocol to judge a vehicle's stability and rollover propensity and that the agency has pledged to make detailed test results available to consumers.
``This information will help consumers to select safer vehicles among individual makes and models within vehicle categories.''
Under the Transportation, Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000, NHTSA was directed to develop a dynamic test for assessing a vehicle's rollover propensity and give that information to consumers. That legislation followed the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires shod on Ford Motor Co. Explorer sport-utility vehicles. Some experts blamed tire failures for a number of SUV rollovers.
NHTSA decided on a test using the ``fishhook maneuver,'' a series of abrupt turns at varying speeds. Previously, the agency had used static measurements based on the width and height of a vehicle.
CU said the new tests provide more information about the total vehicle.
``(The test) also reflects the stability of the vehicle in real-world driving situations, which takes into account the vehicle's suspension and tires and the presence of an active stabilizing system,'' said David Champion, director of the group's Auto Test Department.
NHTSA unveiled the new test at a news conference in Ohio. The agency plans to release test results for 2004 models this winter, CU said. Those results will be factored into NHTSA's current five-star ratings system-one star means a rollover risk of more than 40 percent, and five stars mean a risk of 10 percent or less.