While Stihl got a cool mention in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago for its dealer relationships, Yamaha recently found itself front and center in an in-depth WSJ article about pending utility vehicle regulation. There’s nothing like being used as a major media example—the “poster child” for a given issue—to set off alarms in corporate offices and boardrooms.
The chosen product in this case is the Yamaha Rhino, a popular utility vehicle that sold 42,000 units in 2007. Seems accidents involving the Rhino have added up to 30 deaths and more than 200 state and federal lawsuits, according to the article. Voluntary federal safety regulations for ATVs are going mandatory next year, but UTVs, with their steering wheels and more automotive designs, have largely escaped safety regulations.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, ATV-related injuries have increased 37% from 2001-2007, with 150,900 serious injuries requiring emergency room care in 2007, and 107 children under 16 killed on ATVs in 2007. Now, following legislation passed by Congress and backed by the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, formerly voluntary ATV safety standards are becoming mandatory in 2009. Standards cover brakes, drive train controls, maximum and speed limiting devices for youth ATVs, performance requirements for brakes and stability and manuals, labels and hang tags.
Interestingly, the article has a comments from a CPSC staff member noting that one reason UTVs have so far escaped regulatory attention is the nomenclature used: UV, UTV, ORV, etc., making it tough to keep track of incidents. “We’re always running behind trying to figure out what’s the word to search for,” said one staffer.