What do you get when you combine a narrow wheel base, a narrow turning radius, a high center of gravity, and a powerful engine? Add to this combination a vehicle that was marketed to be operated on rough, uneven terrain.
You get vehicle rollovers and severe injuries. Not too terribly difficult to predict, right?
A Yamaha Rhino.
System Engineering and Laboratories tested the Rhino on a “completely flat area” at approximately 13 mph, with devastating results:
The “back story” on vehicles such as the Yamaha Rhino starts with their designation: “UTV” or utility terrain vehicle, as opposed to an “all” terrain vehicle. At the time the Consumer Products Safety Commission had no regulations for this new “utility terrain vehicle”. These vehicles were the first vehicles with side-by-side seating for occupants and designed for off road use. The Rhino design included a high center of gravity and an engine, which propelled occupants at up to 40 mph.
By examining the measurement used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is clear that the Yamaha Rhino was destined for rollovers. The NHTSA uses “static stability factor” as a way of gauging the likelihood a vehicle will rollover. The Rhino tallies at a whopping 25% lower in its static stability factor than many 2003 pickup trucks. That means the Rhino is not as stable as a pickup truck.
The glaring differences, in addition to stability factor, are:
The Rhino was intended and marketed for off road use –so they were meant to be driven on uneven ground.
The Rhino was originally manufactured with an open passenger compartment – so arms, legs and heads were not protected from the rollover impact.
The Rhino was manufactured with short wheels – so the center of gravity was further worsened.
Yamaha and other manufacturers “worked around” federal guidelines applying to ATV’s by manufacturing UTV’s. That meant they could get vehicles like the Rhino on the market more rapidly, without complying with ATV safety requirements.
Now, Yamaha comes into lawsuits and claims that their product was misused by consumers. What they do not like to talk about is:
The President of Yamaha – France injured his leg when it went flopping outside the passenger compartment. Yamaha blamed it on the president’s misuse of the vehicle. In addition, it has been reported that injuries were also suffered from operating the Rhino, by Jean Claude Olivier, Engineering Vice President; Mr. Ike Miyachi, President Casey Yoshida; test engineer Caleb Chesser; product tester Phillip McRae; and test rider Patrick Biolsi.
Engineers have evaluated the Rhino disapprovingly; Yamaha employees experienced many of the same problems that injured consumers; and, well let’s face it, all you have to do is look at the original Rhino and it immediately occurs to you that it is just too tall and the wheel base is just too small.