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Saturn Recalls More Than 246,000 VUE Sport Utility Vehicles on Rear Suspension Probe

DETROIT August 5, 2004; The AP reported that Saturn will voluntarily recall nearly all of its VUE sport utility vehicles, which regulators are investigating because the vehicle's rear suspension failed during two government rollover tests.

The recall by the General Motors Corp. division affects 246,433 VUEs in the 2002-2004 model years, including 231,123 in the United States and 15,310 in Canada.

"We're not pleased with this, and we're working hard to see it never happens again," GM vice chairman and chief financial officer John Devine said while attending an auto seminar in Traverse City. "Rather than talk about it, we'd rather fix it."

GM has had a spate of costly recalls this year involving several million vehicles. The world's No. 1 automaker cited higher recall costs as a drag on its second-quarter financial results released last month, but still earned $1.34 billion in the April-June quarter, up from $901 million a year ago.

On Thursday, shares of GM fell 59 cents to close at $42.54 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the left-rear suspension failed on the four-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive Saturn VUEs in June during a 45-mph test that includes a sharp turn. Both times a wheel collapsed beneath the vehicle.

Saturn said the VUE did not roll over during the test, but said the rear suspension was damaged when a wheel struck the pavement. Saturn said it will make adjustments to strengthen the VUE's suspension.

Saturn retailers began calling VUE owners late Wednesday to alert them to the recall. VUE owners will be formally notified by a letter. They then will be advised when to bring in their VUEs so modifications can be made at no cost.

In addition, Saturn retailers will conduct consumer education clinics for VUE owners that will explain the test and how the suspension modification will help the VUE complete the NHTSA evaluation.

NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said the recall won't immediately affect the status of the government's investigation.

"We'll leave the investigation open. We need to make sure the remedy they're offering is going to satisfactorily address the issue," Tyson said. "Certainly, we're pleased that they've stepped forward and provided a remedy."

NHTSA this year began testing a vehicle's tendency to roll over with a moving test. Before that, the agency measured rollover propensity using a mathematical formula based on a vehicle's height and width. Under the old formula, the 2003 Saturn VUE received three out of five stars for rollover resistance. NHTSA hasn't given the 2004 VUE a starred rating.

A Saturn spokeswoman said changes were made in the VUE production line starting Monday. The VUE, which was introduced in the 2002 model year, is produced at Saturn's manufacturing facility in Spring Hill, Tenn.