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John Hopkins

Rhino, an all-terrain vehicle by any other name

» Written by // February 23, 2009 // , ,


Yamaha drastically changed the design of the Rhino and called it a “utility terrain vehicle”, rather than an “all-terrain vehicle”. Why would Yamaha feel the need to do this?

Wikipedia tells us that an all-terrain vehicle is “a vehicle that travels on low pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control…it is designed to handle a wider variety of terrain than most other vehicles.”

It seems reasonable to expect that all-terrain vehicles will be ridden on ground (terrain) that is unpredictable and rough. It also seems reasonable to expect that riders will probably ascend and descend hilly ground. That is what an all-terrain vehicle is all about, right?

But, what if we called them “nearly all-terrain vehicles” or all-terrain except rough terrain vehicles” or, maybe, “utility terrain vehicles”. Let’s take the last one as an example, what is a “utility terrain”? Utility can mean “designed or adapted for general use” and terrain typically refers to “the physical features of a tract of land”. So, Yamaha apparently intended to market its Rhino Utility Terrain Vehicle as a general use vehicle to be used on a tract of land. Not a great deal of difference from what an all-terrain vehicle is thought to mean.

When riders began purchasing the Rhino and it began tipping over, crushing limbs and killing people, should Yamaha have been surprised? Should Yamaha have been surprised that substituting a round steering wheel for a set of handlebars, would create potential maneuverability issues?

Yamaha produced a vehicle in the Rhino that looks, walks, and talks like an all-terrain vehicle. Because they labeled it a utility terrain vehicle should not allow them to be shielded from reasonable safety standards.


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