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Suzuki accuses Consumer Reports publisher of rigging tests

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Consumer group denies it

April 22, 1997
Web posted at: 8:15 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Anthony Collings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- American Suzuki Motor Corp. accused the Consumers Union on Tuesday of rigging test results about the Suzuki Samurai, but the nonprofit group promptly denied it.

The auto manufacturer released what it said was evidence that CU, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, rigged results in 1988 to make the vehicle look bad and boost magazine sales.

Suzuki presented a written statement by former CU employee Ronald Denison, saying he had heard a CU executive tell testing personnel: "If you don't find someone to roll this car, I will."

At a news conference, Suzuki also played what it said was a videotape, made by Denison, of one of the tests of the vehicle. Laughter can be heard off-camera, and a Suzuki executive said it was by CU test personnel and proves the group was out to get Suzuki.

"Safety must be based on science, not a rigged demonstration," said Suzuki general counsel George Ball, adding, "CU violated the public trust."

But the consumer advocate group, which has tested products for decades, stood by its report, and it said the laughter heard on the videotape proved nothing.

movie icon (832K/21 sec. QuickTime movie) - CU testing of Suzuki Samurai

"The CU test is dependable. It's reliable, and the American public has the right to know what cars might tip," said Consumers Union attorney Jim Fitzpatrick.

Article says Samurai rolls easily

In July 1988, Consumer Reports ran an article headlined "The Suzuki rolls over too easily." Suzuki stopped selling the Samurai in the United States after a sharp drop in sales that the company blames on CU's test result.

Suzuki also is suing CU for damages in a federal court in California, claiming the Consumer Reports article was unfair and deceptive. Ball said Suzuki wanted CU to pay damages for lost sales.

A federal judge threw out Suzuki's libel claims against CU, but Suzuki is still suing for alleged product disparagement or unfair criticism.

In addition, Suzuki said it was asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to deny a CU request to make the group's tests the basis for a standard test of vehicles. It also asked the federal agency to investigate the truthfulness of CU statements about its testing methods.

 
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Note: Pages will open in a new browser window Isuzu, like Suzuki, is critical of CU's testing for a similar reason:

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