Yamaha has had great success with its all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and personal watercraft. In 2003 the company introduced its Rhino utility terrain vehicle (UTV), a four wheeled two passenger vehicle that takes the ATV in the direction of a miniature off-road pickup truck. When it was introduced, however, there was no body structure other than a small bed in the rear to carry equipment. The two seats were surrounded by a roll cage and nothing else.
It became evident fairly early on that under certain circumstances the Rhino was prone to tipping, to falling on its side or rolling over. Owners who were involved in accidents complained that the Rhino UTV was capable of climbing rutted hills but could barely function on a flat paved surface. Many Rhino rollovers occurred on flat pavement when the vehicle was turned at a seemingly normal speed and reasonable turn of the steering wheel.
The Yamaha Rhino has a longer wheelbase than a typical ATV, is higher off the ground and carries more weight in the form of two passengers and equipment stored in the rear bed. Its wheelbase is not much wider than an ATV, however, and many people who have been injured by Rhino rollovers blame the narrow chassis for creating a situation where the high center of gravity made the vehicle unstable in a number of situations.
These incidents were often aggravated by the lack of side protection for the passengers. As a result, Yamaha’s 2008 Rhino is equipped with doors and handgrips on the frame. Yamaha has also offered to retrofit any 2004-2007 model Rhino with doors and handgrips free of charge. The Rhino’s tendency to tip over or rollover resulted in many accidents where passengers’ arms or torsos were thrown sideways despite the use of seatbelts and caught beneath the roll cage on the vehicle.
Yamaha Rhinos now being sold each have a label permanently attached to the vehicle that instructs users on how to avoid injury in a rollover and how to avoid tipping the vehicle on hills. Perhaps the most unusual warning, however, is the notice that Yamaha Rhinos should not be driven on pavement – that they are designed for off-road use only. The picture on the warning label of a Yamaha Rhino tipped at a 45 degree angle is stark recognition of the fact that the vehicle must be driven with caution and driven by adults only.