June 19, 1989

I want to know… who's responsible!?

I don't how many of you read Bushdriver magazine, but the latest issue contained a couple of observations by Ray Barker that are worth noting, and relate to a little thing called responsibility.

The first relates to the watchdog story from America a few months ago about Samurais being easy to roll. When we first heard about it here, I'm sure we all had a bit of chuckle and dismissed it as being a bit of a bad American joke. Having heard more since then and hearing the Samurai sales statistics brought back by Geoff from Japan, it has turned into a fairly serious problem for Suzuki.

The general idea being presented by the Yanks is that the light weight and ultrashort wheelbase of the Suzukis make them dangerous and likely to tip over. Consequently sales have dropped dramatically. No doubt the Vitara, or GeoTracker as the septics call it, offers a far more acceptable handling proposition, but it's at the expense of off-road ability. Extrapolate that, and in another 10 years time you may as well not own a 4WD. Even now, the 4WD concept is being applied to passenger cars in the form of "full time 4WD" or "All wheel drive" traction. i.e. it's become just another sales gimmick to sell "ordinary" cars, and the ideas of long wheel travel, high clearance and steep underbody angles is quickly going out the window.

But, back to the Suzuki's problems. Fancy losing about 80% of its market, just because of a few lunatics who can't, or won't, drive properly!

The manual for the Sierra clearly states that the vehicle is shorter, narrower and taller than a 2WD. It points out why. It goes to the extent of saying "Please drive this vehicle within its design parameters. Do not make sudden turns or abrupt maneuvers." And yet, people go out there; thinking that it's a sportscar simply cause the roof comes off, and drive accordingly. What happens? They fall over.

As Mr Barker points out; you can't go and buy a new Porsche, take it down to your favourite fire trail, and then, once you've torn the underneath out of it and dented every panel, take it back to Porsche and expect warranty. They'll tell you, quite rightly, to go to buggery. Why? Because you are doing things with the car that it was never designed to do. Isn't it the same if you drive a Sierra faster than it was meant to be driven? How people can then turn around and try to sue the manufacturer, because of their own lack of common sense is quite ridiculous and pathetic.

To quote veteran rally driver Doug Stewart, "People say the car ran off the road, but I was driving, so I guess it was me who ran off the road, and the car just followed." Well put Doug.

The second point Mr Barker raises also relates to responsibility, or rather the lack of it, or more precisely, peoples unwillingness to face up to it. It concerns the new Nissan Patrol ads on TV - the one that shows a GQ pulling a punt across the river. No vehicle preparation. No checking the depth, nothing. It just plunges in.

The thing is, if somebody buys a brand new Patrol, and tries the same stunt, how well do you think the Nissan dealer would take it? "Certainly Sir, we don't mind changing the bearings in your diffs and wheels, replacing the radiator from where the fan went through it and rebuilding the motor from where it took in water; No problem at all". I just don't think so.

The ad has no disclaimer or warning, and it would be interesting to know legally where a GQ owner stood if he were to bring his car back under warranty, having it broken it by doing the very thing that the TV ads show you can do with it. From what I hear, the GQs already have some pretty serious camber angle problems which causes the cars to want to run off the road, and Nissan don't even want to about that. That's a manufacturer facing up to their responsibilities. That's Nissan know how. Oh what a feeling!

Volume 14, No 6
June 1989
Chris Betcher