The Isuzu Trooper sport-utility vehicle, dogged for nearly a year by Consumer Reports' allegations that it rolls over too easily, was found to be defect-free by the U.S. government's auto safety agency.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday that it has denied a petition from Consumers Reports' publisher Consumers Union that the agency conduct a defect investigation into the Trooper and its sister vehicle, the Acura SLX.
"The Isuzu Trooper has been vindicated. It is perhaps now the most thoroughly scrutinized and tested SUV [sport-utility vehicle] sold in the United States," said American Isuzu Motor Co. Senior Vice President Terry Maloney.
Consumers Union on Aug. 20 slapped a "Not Acceptable" label on the Trooper and SLX, saying they were a danger to consumers because they "tipped up high on two wheels" in emergency maneuvers during road tests.
At the same time, the group petitioned the auto safety agency to open a defect investigation into the luxury vehicle. The actions and subsequent publicity have helped to slash Trooper sales by more than half for the first six months of 1997, to 4,313 units, from 9,290 a year earlier.
Sales of the SLX, made by Isuzu in Japan but sold by Honda Motor Co.'s Acura division, were off 63.2% to 448 for the same period.
The auto safety agency said it conducted its own tests of the vehicles and found no evidence that an investigation would lead to a defect finding and recall order.
Agency spokesman Tim Hurd said the agency did not issue any rebuke to Consumers Union.
"The question was whether there is a defect that affected its propensity to roll over, and we said no, we can't see that there is a defect here," Hurd said.
But Consumers Union stood by its claims Friday and sharply criticized the agency's decision.
The refusal was "the latest in a disturbing record of misguided decisions, in which the federal safety agency has failed to protect consumers from rollover hazards," said R. David Pittle, Consumers Union's technical director.