Consumer Reports Responds to Mitsubishi Statements Regarding Its Tests of the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited

    YONKERS, N.Y.--June 20, 2001--

Statement by Dr. R. David Pittle, Senior Vice President and Technical
    Director Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports

    Here are the facts of what occurred. Using its standard test protocols, CU tested seven SUVs on the same day, May 16. During those tests the only vehicle to tip up was the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited. This vehicle was properly driven within our test course and in complete accordance with CU's test protocols, under the same conditions, by the same test engineers as the other six SUVs. None of the other six vehicles tipped up at all.
    In the public response we've seen thus far, Mitsubishi has produced a hypothetical simulation, which they call a "forensic reconstruction," that bears no resemblance to the reality of our test records documented on video. We showed this video record to Mitsubishi on June 5. We have made it available to the news media today, and it is currently available online at www.ConsumerReports.org. In addition, Mitsubishi has focused on only the second (silver) Montero Limited that we tested. The first (red) vehicle was tested by four different test engineers, all of whom experienced tip-ups on our short course. Mitsubishi has ignored the tests of that first vehicle.
    Technical, Editorial, and Executive staff of Consumers Union carefully reviewed what Mitsubishi presented to us, and our findings have been double-checked. Consumers Union stands by our test records and the Consumer Reports article, and we believe in the validity of our tests.
    Consumers Union does not "attack" any product, as Mitsubishi claims we've done in this case. CU independently evaluates products and makes recommendations. Our goals are to promote public safety and to provide useful, comparative buying advice to consumers.


    Excerpts from a June 19, 2001 Letter Sent by Dr. Pittle to Pierre
    Gagnon, President and COO of Mitsubishi

    It is unfortunate that, in the absence of any credible evidence and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Mitsubishi seems bent on accusing CU of misconduct and of deliberately manipulating its test results. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    We always listen to commentaries on our work with an open mind, and work hard to publish findings and advice that we believe to be valid, accurate, and fair. As always, we have put forth our best efforts without preconception and without malice toward any manufacturer or product and our motive in publishing our test results and judgments rests solely on our mission to serve the public interest. Because we are an independent product-testing organization, with no financial support from any manufacturer, distributor, or retailer, we have no stake in the outcome of our tests and judgments.
    CU strongly disagrees with all of Mitsubishi's attacks on its competence and integrity. The avoidance - maneuver tests were constructed and carried out professionally, objectively, without bias, and with a firmly held rational belief in their reliability - indeed, upon our rock-solid belief in the validity of our testing.
    The Mitsubishi claim that physical evidence demonstrates that CU's silver Montero was driven improperly (so wide to the left as to be off the course - in Mr. Spencer's words "hitting parked cars or trees" - with extreme steering inputs made for no "discernible" reason) is utterly baseless and untenable. A viewing of the videotape recorded of the actual run in which the silver Montero tipped up severely in the exit lane - which was shown to the nine Mitsubishi representatives who visited our track on June 5th - shows clearly and beyond any possible rational dispute that the vehicle was properly driven within the course and in complete accordance with CU's test protocols.
    If Carr's engineers claim that physical evidence exists to the contrary, they are flat-out wrong; to date, they have not sent any information that we find to support those allegations.
    We hope their error is inadvertent and not made in the absence of a good-faith belief in its veracity.
    The Mitsubishi charge, made to CU, of improper tire inflation is likewise groundless. CU measured and recorded tire pressures (with calibrated instruments) before and after the testing. At all relevant times, tire pressure was proper and in accord with manufacturer's specifications.
    Mitsubishi wrongly asserts that CU's tests are invalid and that CU is acting with foreknowledge of such invalidity because of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ("NHTSA") statement in 1997 that the CU test does not provide a "scientific basis on which to determine the existence of a safety-related defect." CU has not ignored criticism of its tests. It has evaluated these critiques and found them to be, in its considered judgment, unwarranted. CU remains convinced that its tests are valid. Our judgments are genuine. CU is not alone. Others, including renowned dynamic rollover authorities, other auto safety organizations, and the courts have found CU's tests and similar tests to be a useful and valid basis for evaluating vehicle behavior at handling limits.
    In any case, the limitations imposed on a government agency acting under strict statutory and regulatory guidelines and other considerations are far different in substance from those governing an independent nonprofit consumer testing organization whose primary concern is informing and educating the public independently and objectively about product safety.
    We believe the public interest is best served by Mitsubishi addressing these safety concerns directly. Mitsubishi could take steps like those taken by Daimler Benz in the case of the Mercedes-Benz A-class sedan by improving the safety of the Montero Limited.

    Press materials:
    http://www.consumersunion.org/products/products.htm#SUV

    Full report:
    http://www.consumerreports.org/static/0107mit0.html

    Video:
    http://www.consumerreports.org/static/0107mit0.html
    To see the video, click on the link by the avoidance maneuver graphic.

    

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