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GM to make stability control standard on most SUVs

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Significantnumbers of lives should be saved over the coming years, thanks to a decision byGeneral Motors to make its electronic stability control (ESC) system standard onits models that are most likely to roll over.

The announcementfrom GM trumped the company's cross-Detroit rival, since Ford had earlier inthe day bragged about its own ESC system being better than anyone else's and promisedto make it available to other companies if they wanted to buy it.

Recent researchhas shown that vehicles are less likely to roll over if they don't slide out ofcontrol in the first place and hit a curb or a bump or slip into a ditch. ESChelps to stop such slides by applying a single brake and/or cutting back onengine power to suit the situation, delivering control that the driver cannot.

America's National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration recently reported that it saw a 67 percent decline insingle-passenger accidents when the technology was in use, and a more recentstudy by the University of Michigan said almosthalf of SUV rollover cases involved skidding, which could have been helped by ESC.

GM North Americapresident Gary Cowger said the firm's mid-size SUVs will get ESC beginning in2005, and that includes Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer and TrailBlazerEXT, GMC Envoy, Envoy XL and Envoy XUV, Hummer H3, and Saab 9-7X.

Full-size SUVsincluding Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and Avalanche, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XLwill also get ESC next year.

Hummer H2 willget stability control in 2006.

The CadillacEscalade, Escalade EXT and ESV, and the GMC Yukon Denali and Yukon XL Denalialready feature standard electronic stability control.

In 2003, made ESCstandard on full-size, extended vans (the 15-passenger GMC Savana and ChevroletExpress); and added the feature to the 12-passenger Savana and Express vans earlierin 2004.

This would meanthat ESC would be standard equipment on 1.3 million GM sport-utility vehiclesin 2005, with many thousands more to follow the next year.

''Except for thegrowing use of seat belts,'' said Cowger, ''we have rarely seen a technologythat brings such a positive safety benefit to the driving public.''

In itsannouncement, Ford said it will offer rollover prevention technology on 500,000vehicles in 2005, and will lease the technology to other auto makers.

"This is asignificant commitment by the company to do this," said Sue Cischke, vicepresident of environmental and safety engineering.

Ford is offeringESC as standard equipment on the 2005 Explorer, Lincoln Navigator, LincolnAviator, Mercury Mountaineer and Volvo XC90, and it's optional on the 2005 FordExpedition.

Ford will alsooffer ESC on its 15-passenger vans starting in the 2006 model year.
photo:General Motors