Suzuki settles Consumer Reports lawsuit after eight-year legal battle - HISTORY
Year
2004

Suzuki settles Consumer Reports lawsuit after eight-year legal battle

On July 8, 2004, Suzuki Motor Corporation and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, agree to a settlement in an eight-year-long lawsuit in which the automaker accused Consumer Reports of damaging its reputation with claims that its Samurai sport utility vehicle (SUV) was prone to rolling over.

In July 1988, a Consumer Reports product review judged the Samurai as unacceptable because of its propensity to tip during sharp turns. (The magazine based this conclusion on the car’s performance in avoidance-maneuver tests.) Suzuki stopped making the Samurai in 1995. The following year, the company filed the lawsuit, accusing Consumer Union of rigging the test and perpetrating consumer fraud. The automaker sought $60 million in compensation and unspecified punitive damages. Suzuki’s case included testimony from a former Consumers Union employee who served for 10 years as a technician in the company’s auto testing group, as well as videotapes and records of automobile testing that date back to 1988. The videos showed, among other things, that the testing personnel had driven the Samurai through the course no fewer than 46 times before getting it to tip up on two wheels on the 47th, a result that was met by laughing and cheering from the group.

A federal judge dismissed Suzuki’s lawsuit without a trial, but in September 2002 an appeals court ruled that a jury should hear the case. In April 2000, Consumers Union had won a jury trial over a lawsuit filed by Isuzu Motor, which claimed that Consumer Reports magazine had rigged a test involving its Trooper SUV in order to make the vehicle tip over. In November 2003, U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Consumers Union appeal in the Suzuki case, and the case was headed for a jury trial in California before the settlement was reached the next July.

No money changed hands in the agreement. Though Consumers Union did not issue an apology–“We stand fully behind our testing and rating of the Samurai,” David Pittle, vice president for technical policy at Consumers Union, said–it made a “clarification,” stating that the magazine’s statement that the Samurai “easily” rolls over during turns may have been “misconstrued or misunderstood.” The agreement also stated that Consumers Reports “never intended to imply that the Samurai easily rolls over in routine driving conditions” and had spoken positively of other Suzuki models such as the Sidekick and the Vitara/XL-7. For its part, Suzuki claimed the settlement as a win for its side: Company officials said it would allow them to concentrate on growing Suzuki’s business in the United States, including building national sales to 200,000 vehicles by 2007, compared with 58,438 in 2003.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

“Lean On Me” begins its first stay at #1

Bill Withers stepped into a recording studio for the very first time at the age of 32, and two years later, he’d written and recorded one of the most beloved pop songs of the modern era: “Lean On Me,” which began its first stay at #1 on the pop charts on this day in 1972.Bill ...read more

The Liberty Bell rings

In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell rings out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall), summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, by Colonel John Nixon. On July 4, the historic document was adopted by ...read more

MacArthur named Korean commander

The day after the U.N. Security Council recommended that all U.N. forces in Korea be placed under the command of the U.S. military, General Douglas MacArthur, the hero of the war against Japan, is appointed head of the United Nations Command by President Harry S. ...read more

Commodore Perry sails into Tokyo Bay

Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, representing the U.S. government, sails into Tokyo Bay, Japan, with a squadron of four vessels. For a time, Japanese officials refused to speak with Perry, but under threat of attack by the superior American ships they accepted letters from ...read more

Paris celebrates 2,000th birthday

On this day in 1951, Paris, the capital city of France, celebrates turning 2,000 years old. In fact, a few more candles would’ve technically been required on the birthday cake, as the City of Lights was most likely founded around 250 B.C.The history of Pariscan be traced back to ...read more

Taylor resigns Saigon post

Ambassador Maxwell Taylor resigns from his post in Vietnam. Former Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge replaced Taylor. As ambassador, Taylor had pressed for the return of civilian rule after a military coup had overthrown President Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. Although Taylor had ...read more

First Americans killed in South Vietnam

Maj. Dale R. Ruis and Master Sgt. Chester M. Ovnand become the first Americans killed in the American phase of the Vietnam War when guerrillas strike a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) compound in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The group had arrived in South ...read more

Splendid Splinter homers to win All-Star Game

On this day in 1941, with his team trailing 5-4 with two outs in the ninth inning, Ted Williams hits a three-run home run to lead the American League to a 7-5 victory in the All-Star Game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit.The summer of 1941 provided two of the biggest storylines in ...read more

Soapy Smith killed in Skagway, Alaska

A disgruntled city engineer in Skagway, Alaska, murders “Soapy” Smith, one of the most notorious con men in the history of the West.Born in Georgia in 1860, Jefferson Randolph Smith went west while still a young man, finding work as a cowboy in Texas. Smith eventually tired of ...read more

Hemingway is wounded

On this day in 1918, Ernest Hemingway is severely wounded while carrying a companion to safety on the Austro-Italian front during World War I. Hemingway, working as a Red Cross ambulance driver, was decorated for his heroism and sent home.Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, ...read more

Official Oscars chef Wolfgang Puck born

On this day in 1949, Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef and official caterer for the Academy Awards Governors Ball, is born in Austria.Puck, whose mother was a hotel chef, began his culinary training as a teenager and worked in top restaurants in France before moving to the United ...read more

Torrential rains cause flooding in Europe

Torrential rains in the Carpathian Mountains cause serious flooding in the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany on this day in 1997. In all, 104 people died as a result of the deluge. In the aftermath, authorities from each country blamed the others for the extent of the disaster. ...read more