CBS News reported last month that in July, 2002, test drivers gathered in Kentucky to try out the Yamaha Rhino. During the testing, Keisuke “Casey” Yoshida, President of a U.S. subsidiary of Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd., was behind the wheel of a Rhino prototype. Ike Miyachi, a company vice president in charge of Rhino development, rode beside him in the passenger seat. During the ride, the Rhino tipped over, giving Miyachi a foot injury. Yoshida raised a question a few weeks later during a Rhino meeting that now seems prophetic. “Casey wants update on instability of vehicle for future liability cases,” according to Yamaha meeting minutes.
The Rhino is dangerously unstable due to its unusually narrow stance, high ground clearance and lack of a rear differential to help in turning. The Rhino’s seat belts tend to unspool during rollovers, resulting in belted occupants being partially ejected. The Rhino has “significant problems,” said Inez Tenenbaum, who in June became chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Under pressure from the agency, Yamaha announced a “free repair program” to improve the Rhino’s handling and stability. Seemingly a recall in everything but name, the company agreed to install spacers on the rear axles of the vehicles to make them a few inches wider, to remove their rear anti-sway bars, and install protective half-doors. It’s possible that the CPSC could still ban the Rhino. In an interview with CBS News, Commissioner Tenenbaum said the safety commission is continuing to investigate. She said that if the Rhino is found to be too dangerous even with the changes, she would be willing to seek a ban.
Serious accidents have occurred under seemingly benign conditions-at low to moderate speeds, on relatively flat ground, and without drivers knowingly doing anything adventurous or sporty. Our firm represents a number of victims of this dangerous vehicle. If you have questions about the Yamaha Rhino, please contact Chris Glover, a lawyer in our firm, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Glover@beasleyallen.com.
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