All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) continue to be among some of the most dangerous products manufactured for consumer use. For some time, ATVs and UTVs have created risks of injuries involving rollovers, where occupants or riders are either injured inside the vehicle or thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured.
Now, a new and very serious issue has arisen involving fire risks among users and riders of Polaris ATVs and UTVs. In 2017, Polaris has been compelled to institute four separate recalls related to fire and burn risks among its users. Let’s take a brief look at the recalls.
• In the first recall (in March 2017), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ordered Polaris to recall some of its ATVs and UTVs for fire risks, as a result of multiple reports to the CPSC regarding fires associated with these vehicles. The recall describes the issue thusly: “The vehicle engine can misfire and the temperatures of the exhaust and nearby components can get too hot and cause the components to melt, and/or a contaminated brake master cylinder may cause unintended brake drag, posing burn and fire hazards.”
• An updated recall was issued on additional units in April 2017, warning of an additional risk wherein the “heat shield can fall off the vehicle, posing fire and burn hazards to riders.”
• In July 2017, a third recall was issued, where the defect was noted to be: “The fuel tank neck can crack or the wiring harness can overheat or short-circuit, posing fuel leak and fire hazards.”
• In October 2017, yet another fire/burn recall was required by the CPSC on certain Polaris models, with the following identified hazard: “The exhaust header can crack and release hot exhaust gases into the engine compartment, posing fire and burn hazards.”
The original recall involved 2016 and 2017 RZR 900, 100, Turbo and GENERAL 1000 recreational off-road vehicles (ROVs). The second recall involved 2015 Polaris Ranger XP 900, XP 900 EPS, and CREW 900. The third recall involved Polaris RZR 170 ROVs, a vehicle marketed to directly to children. The fourth recall involved the 2014 through 2016 ACE 325 units. Polaris concedes that there have been multiple reported failures (more than 30 reported incidents) that create a serious fire or burn hazard. More than 90,000 Polaris units are involved in these recalls.
Polaris UTVs and ATVs are manufactured primarily in Mexico and the United States. To have four fire/burn recalls in one year on so many different models for so many different defects is unprecedented. Such repeated incidents raise questions about the company’s manufacturing methods and quality assurance review system.
One writer reported that the 2017 recalls were a continuation of multiple recalls of Polaris vehicles in 2017, not only among the ROV class of vehicles, but also among the Polaris other lines, including its three-wheeled Slingshot motorcycle and some of its Indian motorcycle vehicles. According to this source, as of March 2017, Polaris had spent more than $120 million in warranty and legal costs associated with its recalls. Other reports are that warranty and recall costs could top $132 million, which is especially significant considering that sales of the once popular Polaris vehicles have fallen significantly. It is not clear whether there is a correlation between the multiple recalls, but one would certainly expect that the product defect issues would affect overall sales.
On Dec. 19, 2017, Polaris and the CPSC released a “Joint Statement” regarding certain fire issues and pending recalls with the Polaris ROVs. The Joint Statement, which can be found on the CPSC website, provides that fires related to certain ROVs “have caused death, serious injuries and property damage.” Furthermore, and perhaps most disturbing, Polaris concedes that despite recall efforts to remedy fire risks, some of its ROVs continue to catch fire. The purpose of the Joint Statement is noted to be: “The CPSC and Polaris continue to work together to ensure fire risks in these vehicles are addressed. However, at this time, the CPSC and Polaris want to make the public aware of the fires involving these vehicles.” Consumers who have experienced fires and overheating-related incidents are encouraged to file complaints at www.SafeProducts.gov or by calling 800-638-2772.
Our firm is currently investigating burn and fire risks associated with Polaris UTVS and ATVs. If you know someone who has suffered a personal injury or death as a result of being burned while operating one of these vehicles or you just need more information, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our Personal Injury & Product Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: cpsc.gov, Polaris.com, startribune.com, miamiherald.com and fool.com