Toyota Motor will turn up the pressure on Detroit vehicle makers another notch by bolstering the safety of its sport utility vehicles, equipping all models, including the entry-level RAV4, with electronic stability control systems, according to the Detroit News
.Because of their high center of gravity, SUVs are more prone to rollovers than cars that ride lower to the ground, and the devices intervene to prevent the type of skidding that often precedes deadly rollovers, the News
said, noting that, each year, rollovers account for about a quarter of U.S. fatalities and more than half of SUV occupant fatalities.The News
said U.S. vehicle makers generate big profits from SUV sales, but trail many foreign rivals when it comes to equipping the vehicles with expensive high-tech safety features such as electronic stability control which, according to suppliers, costs $400-$500 a vehicle, or a bit less if the vehicle is already equipped with anti-lock braking.That, the newspaper said, compares with as little as $50 for a tire-pressure-monitoring system, one of the federally-mandated requirements to come out of the Ford-Firestone rollover scandal.The News
said safety experts are pushing manufacturers to at least equip SUVs with stability control systems. Luxury SUVs sold by Mercedes-Benz and BMW have long been fitted with the feature but now Toyota is upping the ante by providing them as standard equipment on an SUV priced under $20,000, the paper added.U.S. vehicle makers offer stability control systems as standard or optional on larger SUVs but not on their smaller models, according to the News
. Rival Japanese brands take a similar approach, the paper said, and claim few buyers are prepared to pay for the expensive option.Toyota spokesman John Hanson told the newspaper the company has extended vehicle stability control across its SUV range to generate economies of scale.