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New York Allows Stretch SUVs

Posted on August 16, 2001 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

The state of New York recently imposed a plan that would certify stretched sports utility vehicles (specifically Lincoln Navigators and Ford Excursions) as livery vehicles, within the state, and apparently without regard to established safety standards.

According to Jerry Loftus, General Counsel for the Limousine Industry Manufacturers Organization (LIMO), a vehicle safety watchdog, ?This was done in spite of the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently investigating the safety of these vehicles.?

Loftus challenged New York State?s position in an open letter, pointing out that many of the companies that cut SUVs in half and ?stretch? them into limousines do so in a manner which experts consider unsafe. These experts fear that standard braking, steering and suspension systems are inadequate to safely accommodate the added weight of a vehicle with a 15 to 20 foot extension in the center.

?NHTSA is concerned that these vehicles may not comply with all applicable FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards), and may contain defects related to motor vehicle safety caused by vehicle overloading. That could result in loss of control, a crash, and serious or fatal injuries to occupants,? Loftus said. ?New York has endorsed these vehicles by certifying them as livery vehicles. They have done so without proof of the manufacturers? compliance to nearly three dozen Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, without the support of the initial vehicle manufacturers and clearly with little understanding of the structural integrity of these vehicles. The health, safety and well being of vehicle occupants are at stake here.?

Both Ford and Cadillac have established programs for building safe limousines. According to the manufacturers, limousines built under these guidelines benefit from extensive structural and crash testing data, and utilize heavy-duty components (i.e., brakes, suspension systems and steering components) necessary to accommodate the excess weight of a stretched vehicle. These components are unavailable to anyone not participating in Ford or Cadillac?s programs; limousines that do not abide by established guidelines also suffer a forfeiture of their warranties.

A growing demand for SUV limousines from the general public led Ford to crash test and add a structurally enhanced Excursion to its limousine program, or Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) program, earlier this summer.

However, most of the SUV limousines currently on the road were built prior to Ford releasing its findings, and are therefore unsafe according to industry standards. More information on this story can be found in the October issue of LCT magazine

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