Suzuki Samurai

Suzuki Rollover History

The Suzuki Samurai was first marketed in the U.S. in 1986 and was sold as a four-wheel drive light utility/sport vehicle in either a convertible or a hardtop body style. The Samurai was marketed exclusively in the continental U.S. by Suzuki of America Automotive Corporation and in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Island by Suzuki Motor Company, Ltd. The SJ410 was sold by Suzuki Motor Company in its marketing territory from April 1981 to the present as a four-wheel drive in a convertible, hardtop or truck configuration. The LJ80 four wheel drive vehicle was similarly marketed by Suzuki Motor Company, Ltd., from style. Neither the SJ410 nor the LJ80 were equipped with stabilizer bars or roll-bar assemblies. Even twenty years later, Suzuki vehicles appear to be some of the smallest light utility/sport vehicles ever marketed in the U.S. The LJ80 and SJ410 are more closely related to each other than to the Samurai. Although neither SJ410 are more closely related to each other than to the Samurai. Although neither SJ410 nor the LJJ80 were originally sold in the continental U.S., it appears that some of the vehicles may be have been brought into the continental U.S. from the islands or Canada.

Suzuki Samurai Rollover Concerns

When Suzuki unveiled the Samurai, safety experts were shocked that Suzuki would have introduced a vehicle with the same rollover tendencies as the AMC Jeep CV-5 and CJ-7. American Suzuki Motor Corporation however, defends the attacks, charging that the testing procedures used by Consumer Reports and others were biased and completely inaccurate and in fact called such statements concerning the Samurai’s high propensity to rollover as defamatory and Suzuki claimed that the rollover tests used were altered to cause the Samurai to rollover. Consumer Reports responded that there were no alterations in the test, as it is the same test as used to test Samurai’s competitors.

Suzuki Samurai Rollover Propensity – Recall Proposed

The Samurai was marketed and sold as a vehicle not for off road use, but instead for highway use. In fact the advertisement on the car buying public was showed the Samurai as a great vehicle for highway trips and commuting to work. The problem however was the vehicle has a high center of gravity and unstable driving characteristics making it not fit or suitable for day to day commuting. The high ground clearance, short wheelbase, narrow track and stiff suspension makes the Samurai somewhat tricky to handle and can behave abnormally in normal accident avoidance maneuvers.

Soon after the first Samurai’s started to rollover and cause injuries and deaths, consumer groups demanded the recall of the Suzuki Samurai. The recall debate started after the vehicle was given the “not acceptable” ruling by Consumer Reports. A recall unfortunately can not make and fix the problem is inherent in its design, “The only way to fix it is to make the vehicle longer, wider and heavier.” The Center for Auto Safety petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall the Suzuki Samurai because of safety problems. However, NHTSA on September 1, 1988, denied the request by the Center for Auto Safety to recall the Suzuki Samurai. The Agency agreed to establish a rollover standard for cars and light trucks. Suzuki’s continued to sell and market the 1989 model year, with sales as low as 2,000 per month compared to 10,000-12,000 per month a year earlier.

Suzuki Rollovers – NHTSA

In August 1988, the Office of Defects Investigation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported a review-of the 113 report Suzuki vehicle rollovers indicated the following:

1) All fatal first event Samurai rollovers involved ejection
2) The average time to failure/time of ownership was less than 8 months, ranging from 2 to 15 months
3) The driver was cited by police in approximately 50 percent of police reported rollovers
4) Alcohol was involved in 50 percent of rollovers described in police reports
5) Where the age of the driver was known, 73 percent of the reported drivers were 25 years old or younger, The oldest driver involved in a single vehicle rollover was 43 years old
6) Limited visibility due to darkness occurred in at least 58 percent of the rollovers
7) There is no seasonal influence (winter, spring, summer, or fall)
8) The average reported travel speed was 37 mph, ranging from 10 to 65 mph.
9) The average reported mileage was 13,090 miles, ranging from 1,618 to 34,000 miles
10) Female drivers accounted for 44 percent of the reported rollovers
11) Weekend rollovers accounted for 44 percent of the reports
12) California accounted for more than twice the number of rollovers as any other state (20 percent versus Florida’s 9 percent)
13) A wet or icy roadway or excessively windy road conditions occurred in approximately 29 percent of the rollover

It was also determined that when a rollover occurred, the rollover was reportedly preceded by:
1. Loss of control (i.e., spun) – 25 percent
2. Left roadway, straight road – 18 percent
3. Left roadway, cornering/turning – 20 percent
4. Obstacle avoidance maneuver – 15 percent
5. Ramped (struck obstacle) – 8 percent

Suzuki Sidekick & Geo Tracker RolloversDue to declining sales and threats of continued litigation, Suzuki in 1989 phased out the Samurai and introduced in 1989, the Suzuki Sidekick. Though the Samurai and Sidekick look very similar the Sidekick is 4 inches wider and 200 lbs. heavier than the Samurai is. Built in the new joint Suzuki/GM CAMI factory in Canada, they were briefly powered by the Samurai’s 1.3-liter engine, but were soon equipped with a stroked version of that engine, displacing 1590cc and producing 80 horsepower with 8 valves and throttle body fuel injection. The Sidekick’s “Identical Twin” the Geo Tracker was sold and marketed through General Motor’s dealers in the U.S. The problem with rollover propensity though was not resolved, as the Sidekick and the Geo Tracker, still are tall, lightweight narrow utility vehicles that due to this combination will not escape rollover accidents, but is a vast improvement to the more unstable Suzuki Samurai. Also sold as the Suzuki Escudo in Asia, the Suzuki Vitara in Europe and Australia, the Suzuki Sidekick, Chevrolet, Geo, and GM Tracker in North America, and the Asuna Sunrunner in the South Pacific and Canada, the new Suzuki proved to be another very popular vehicle. A little larger than the Samurai, it made use of independent front suspension, coil-sprung rear suspension, an available automatic transmission, and a much nicer interior. In 1991, Suzuki introduced the long-wheelbase, 5-door hardtop version of the Sidekick, expanding the model lineup into even more upscale territory. In 1995 Suzuki introduced for the decidedly more upscale and the sporty Sidekick Sport. Available in the U.S. with an 1.8-liter, 120 horsepower DOHC inline-4 engine with wide 16-inch wheels. But Europe, Asia, and Australia were given an even better version, dubbed the Vitara LWB V6. Its 2.0-liter 24-valve 4-cam V-6 was Suzuki’s largest and most powerful engine yet, producing a smooth 134 hp and a broad torque curve. In 1998 Suzuki unveiled convertible and hardtop Vitara and Chevrolet Tracker, and the Grand Vitara.

Suzuki Sidekick & Geo Tracker Rollover Accidents & Roof Crush Injuries

As more and more young and unsuspecting drivers get behind the wheel of Geo Trackers and Sidekicks, the more rollover accidents with devastating injuries from ejections and roof crush or roof pillar collapse will occur. The higher rollover propensity of these SUVs is the simple fact that they have a high center of gravity. This is directly based on it’s short wheel base and track width. When you put 4 people in a Sidekick or Geo Tracker, the maximum load capacity of these SUVs are pushed to the limit. When this happens the center of gravity is raised, as is the chances of a rollover of the Sidekick or Tracker. When a rollover occurs, the roof often will collapse or crush into the occupant zone causing serious head and spinal cord injuries.