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Feds Scrutinize SUV's Safety

Federal regulators are investigating the Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle after its rear suspension failed during two government rollover tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday.

Saturn Vues from the 2002-2004 model years are being investigated. General Motors Corp. spokesman Jim Schell said the company has sold around 230,000 Saturn Vues since they were introduced in the 2002 model year.

"We are cooperating with NHTSA on the investigation," Schell said. He said he hasn't heard about any problems with the Vue in internal company tests.

NHTSA said the left-rear suspension failed on both the four-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive Saturn Vues in June during a 45-mph test that includes a sharp turn. Both times, a wheel collapsed beneath the vehicle.

NHTSA said it also has received one complaint from a consumer who said his rear wheel bent under his 2003 Vue when he swerved after his vehicle left the road. The incident caused the vehicle to roll over.

NHTSA investigations sometimes lead to vehicle recalls, but NHTSA and GM haven't yet determined if the Vue should be recalled.

NHTSA began testing a vehicle's tendency to roll over with a moving test this year. Before that, the agency measured rollover propensity using a mathematical formula based on a vehicle's height and width. Under the old formula, the 2003 Saturn Vue received three out of five stars for rollover resistance. NHTSA hasn't given the 2004 Vue a starred rating.

By Dee-Ann Durbin

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