By Consumer Federation of America
A Consumer Federation of America (CFA) analysis of off highway vehicle (OHV) recalls found that in the past eight years the number of recalls has increased from two recalls in 2010 to 19 recalls in 2017. OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), and utility task vehicles (UTVs). CFA’s analysis of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) OHV recall reports since 2010 found that the highest number of recalls occurred during the past three years, from January 1, 2015 through October 27, 2017. To date, 2017 has the most recalls of all the years analyzed despite the fact that two months remain in the calendar year.
In addition, CFA analysis of CPSC OHV recall reports from January 1, 2010 through October 27, 2017found that 16 brands were involved in the recalls, and the brand with the most recalls was Polaris. CPSC reports identified at least 60 injuries and two deaths linked to OHVs that were subsequently recalled. Also, more than 750,000 OHVs were estimated to be sold and subsequently recalled.
Recall Volume by Brand and Year
From January 1, 2010 through October 27, 2017, a total of 67 recall notices were identified. Sixteen brands were involved in the notices, and the brand that had the most recall notices during the period was Polaris. Figure 1, below, shows the number of OHV recalls during the report period. In 2017, there were a total of 19 recalls—the highest number of recalls in a single year during the period analyzed. In 2016, there were 14 recalls, and in 2015 there were 10 recalls, the second and third highest number of recalls in a single year during the period analyzed. In 2011, there was one recall, but the following year the number of recalls increased to nine, a nine-fold increase, which was the highest increase, between years, for the period analyzed by CFA.
The OHV recalls involve 16 different brands. Figure 2, below, shows that Polaris had the most recalls, 20, Kawasaki had the second highest number of recalls, eight, while BRP had the third highest, seven.
*Different CPSC recall notices for Bad Boy Buggies differ on who is issuing the recall. On January 2017, Textron issued a recall for Bad Boy Buggies, the manufacturer of Bad Boy Buggies, according to the CPSC recall notice. On April 2014 and December 2011, Bad Boy Buggies issued two recalls for UTVs alongside E-Z-GO. E-Z-GO issued the two recalls for golf carts. Both Bad Boy Buggies and E-Z-GO are manufactured by Textron, according to the CPSC recall notices. For the purposes of this analysis, the recalls issued under Textron and E-Z-GO for Bad Boy Buggy products are included under the name Bad Boy Buggies.
**Arctic Cat issued three recall notices under the name Arctic Cat on March 2014, July 2015, and August 2016. In October 2017, Arctic Cat issued a recall but under the name Textron. According to Textron’s website, Textron announced it purchased Arctic Cat in March 2017. For the purposes of this analysis, the Textron recall for Arctic Cat was included under the name Arctic Cat.
Recalls Driven by Fuel, Throttle, and Steering Issues
There are numerous reasons why OHVs have been recalled, and CFA was able to identify some patterns. For example, looking at the entire period, the top three hazards responsible for the recalls were broadly related to fuel, throttle, and steering issues. Of the 67 recalls, fuel-related hazards were associated with the highest number of recalls, 15 (22%). The second and third most common hazards leading to recalls were related to throttle and steering issues, which each made up 8 recalls (12%). These top three hazards represent nearly half of all hazards that led to recalls (46%).
Examples of fuel-related hazards include the fuel tap leaking, fuel gauge problems, and the fuel filter leaking. Issues related to the throttle include the throttle failing to return to idle and the throttle cable melting. Examples of steering-related hazards include the steering shaft breaking and the electronic power steering unit malfunctioning.
Injuries and Deaths
Injuries and deaths were involved in nearly one-third of the OHV recalls. Out of the 67 recalls analyzed, 20 recalls (30%) involved at least one injury. Tragically, the most serious involved two deaths. The most recent death occurred in January 2017 and involved the rollover of an OHV that was subsequently recalled because it did not have seatbelts, resulting in the death of a 14-year-old passenger. The second death occurred in April 2016 on an OHV that caught fire (the specific part of the vehicle that caught fire was not identified) and then rolled over, resulting in the death of a 15-year-old passenger.
There were 60 injuries included in the recall notices. The CPSC did not always identify the severity of all of the injuries, but of the 60 injuries included, there were at least two severe injuries. One individual suffered a serious leg injury after a rollover incident (the vehicle in this incident was part of the same recall as the January 2017 death above). And the second severe injury included a young child who suffered severe burns after an ROV caught fire (this recall noted that an additional five people suffered burn injuries but did not label them severe).
766,588 Vehicles Subsequently Recalled were Sold
For every recall issued, the CPSC estimates the number of impacted vehicles sold. For the 67 recalls analyzed, the CPSC estimates that 766,588 vehicles subsequently recalled were sold. The recalls that involved the largest number of OHVs were four Polaris recalls. The Polaris RZA ROV involved the largest number of vehicles recalled and was recalled two separate times for two different reasons. The most recent RZA recall of approximately 133,000 vehicles, in April 2016, was due to the risk of the vehicle catching fire and involved the largest number of vehicles recalled during the period analyzed. The second Polaris RZA ROV recall, due to a fuel tank-related problem, occurred in October 2015, and impacted approximately 53,000 vehicles, and included the second highest number of recalled vehicles sold during the period analyzed.
The Polaris Ranger 900 ROV was also involved in two separate recalls. An April 2017 recall impacted approximately 51,000 vehicles from the 2014 model year. The second recall in September 2016 involved approximately 42,500 vehicles from the 2015 model year. Both recalls for the Polaris Ranger 900 ROV were due to the heat shield falling off.
Investigation into Cause of Increasing Recalls Needed
OHVs are powerful vehicles that can pose safety risks to OHV drivers and passengers even during seemingly low risk conditions. But when drivers are unwittingly using defective OHVs, the safety risk increases even more. More defective vehicles being used means more potential injuries and deaths.
OHV companies must do everything necessary to ensure the safety of their products. While we applaud companies for taking responsibility and recalling their products, problems should be identified before the products enter the marketplace and pose risks to consumers. This analysis identified that more OHV recalls have been occurring more recently. These recalled OHVs have been involved in incidents resulting in at least two deaths and 60 injuries. The CPSC must investigate why the number of OHV recalls are increasing and take steps, along with OHV manufacturers, to prevent these tragedies and improve the safety of these vehicles.
 Brand, is used to denote the type of OHV being recalled. While the brand is sometimes synonymous with the manufacturer, it is sometimes the name of an OHV produced by a manufacturer of a different name. In some instances, it is not clear from the recall notice who the manufacturer is. See * and ** below.
 A single CPSC recall notice can include a single model or multiple models, as well as a single model year or multiple model years, or any combination of these factors.
 There were five CPSC recall notices that included golf carts alongside OHVs. The CPSC recall notices did not separate the total units of the OHV products from the golf cart products. Therefore this total includes some units of golf carts.