Polaris Industries is set to pay $27.25 million to settle claims that the company failed to immediately notify federal officials about a safety hazard on its recreational off-highway vehicles. Fire issues have been linked to more than 180 fires and at least one death.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said the manufacturer didn’t alert the agency when it learned that about 226,500 of its vehicles “contained a defect that could create a substantial product hazard.” The charges involved 133,000 of the company’s 2013-2016 RZR 900 vehicles and 2014-2016 RZR 1000 models. The CPSC said Polaris failed to alert it after receiving information that the RZRs “could catch fire” while owners were navigating them.
The CPSC said further that Polaris failed to follow the law by disclosing the issue until after it became substantial and the agency received reports of nearly 200 fires, one which took the life of 15-year-old Baylee Hoaldridge in Utah who passed away after being burned in July 2015. Her Polaris RZR tipped over and caught fire.
There have also been eleven cases of burn injuries, as well as a fire that consumed a 10-acre site. Polaris ROVs or side-by-sides have also caused at least two other deaths. Two women, both from Arizona, were killed in September 2016 when their Polaris Ranger caught fire.
Polaris did not admit any wrongdoing regarding fire issues. In a statement released by the company, the off-road vehicle maker said it “remains vigilant and focused on continually learning and bolstering its safety and quality practices.” Chairman and CEO Scott Wine added, “Rooted in our long-standing commitment to our customers and dealers is our guiding principle of ‘safety and ethics always’ and a drive to continually grow and improve as a company, and we have.”
The approved settlement was the largest in CPSC history, with Chair Ann Marie Buerkle, a Republican, joining three Democratic appointees in the decision. Commissioner Robert S. Adler said, “It shows that the commission is still committed to enforcing the law in a firm but fair manner, and I was delighted that all of my colleagues joined in supporting the civil penalty.”
Rachel Weintraub, general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America said after the settlement was announced, “When there is particularly egregious conduct and the CPSC holds companies responsible for the conduct…that is how our enforcement agencies are supposed to work.”
Also covered in the settlement were about 93,500 of Polaris’ 2014-2015 Ranger XP 900, XP 900 EPS and CREW 900 models. It was also announced that Polaris is recalling about 107,000 of the 2014-2018 Polaris RZR XP 1000 models for a fire hazard.
Polaris has reportedly struggled with fire issues for at least the last twelve years, being forced to recall 600,000 vehicles. Nearly two-thirds of them were recalled more recently, between 2016 and 2017. The settlement came thirteen years after Polaris paid $950,000 to resolve previous charges by the CPSC that it delayed reporting serious safety problems – the company chose not to admit to any wrongdoing in that case either.