Ford, GM to make safer large vans
Faced with government criticism and civil lawsuits, American auto companies have promised to add stability control to their large vans, which are very popular among church groups.
General Motors says it will offer electronic stability control on its 12-passenger vans starting with its 2005 models. It is already keeping its vow to make the stability control a standard feature on 15-passenger vans in 2004 and subsequent models.
Ford is jumping in, too, promising to add stability control standard in 15-passenger vans starting with its 2006 models (it's not clear from news reports whether this will be a standard feature or an option).
"Ford dominates the large van segment," notes The Detroit News, with 53 percent of the market for 15-passenger vans belonging to its Club Wagon models.
But market competition may not be the only reason the auto companies are adding anti-rollover technology. Late last month, Ford settled a hefty lawsuit over a 2002 van rollover crash that killed three American missionaries in Mexico. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but a similar case in 1999 that went to the jury ended up with a $20 million judgment.
Since then, large vans have only come under increasing scrutiny. Most devastating were two consumer warnings issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board that the vans be retrofitted with stability control or additional wheels.
In introducing the new features, the automakers are emphasizing their belief that the vans are safe as they are. "We remain confident that this is a very safe vehicle," Ford said in a written statement. Similarly, GM's vehicle line executive for commercial ...1
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