August 5, 2004
General Motors is voluntarily recalling the Saturn VUE to fix a problem with the rear suspension. In doing so, it may be hoping to avoid litigation that could result from accidents occurring while government safety agencies conduct their own investigations.
The recall affects 246,433 VUEs in the 2002-2004 model years, including 231,123 in the United States and 15,310 in Canada.
It all started when a Saturn VUE owner wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to complain that the rear wheels of his car collapsed on a tight turn, causing the vehicle to roll over.
The agency decided to conduct a test of its own, taking tight turns at 45 mph, and sure enough, the rear suspension collapsed and the car rolled over. The same thing happened when a two-wheel drive model of the VUE was put through the same test.
GM Chief Financial Officer John Devine, asked about the recall at a seminar, said the company would rather fix the problem than just talk about it. The company has faced a number of costly recalls in the last six months.
If you drive a VUE, expect a call from your dealer in the next few days. You'll also receive a letter advising you when to bring in your car for repairs. The company was not specific in detailing its modification plans, other than saying the rear suspension would be strengthened.
However, GM said Saturn retailers will eventually provide detailed information to VUE owners that will explain the modification and how it will make the car safer.
For many VUE owners, the suspension problem may come as a nasty surprise. The NHTSA gave the 2003 Saturn VUE a rating of three stars, out of five, for its ability to resist a rollover. But then, up until this year, the NHTSA didn't test the vehicles on a track. Instead, the agency used a mathematic formula to predict whether the vehicle would keep all four tires on the pavement.