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Dangerous SUVs Come to the Fore via Twitter

Adam Penenberg writes in his Fast Company piece from last week, "you have a $131 million verdict against a major corporation by a jury that found that one of its most popular (and profitable vehicles) was essentially defective, a future NY Mets star whose life was tragically cut short, a top litigator, and no media coverage?"

The story he's talking about is that of Brian Cole, the young Mets prospect who was just beginning his Major League Baseball rise in 2001 when he perished in a rollover crash involving his Ford Explorer. Recently, Ford settled with the young man's family for $131 million.

When the news media failed to pick up on the verdict, Penenberg took to Twitter - and the story took off.

Among his tweets about the case were statistics, culled from hundreds of hours of research in writing the book. Some are so shocking that it's hard to believe them, except for the fact that they are ... well, fact.

For example, 1 in every 2,700 Ford Explorers manufactured between the years 1990 and 2001 rolled over and killed at least one person in the vehicle. The Ford Bronco II, which preceded the Explorer had an even worse rate at 1 in every 500.

The SUVs were so dangerous that, in the early 90's, Ford executives would not allow company test drivers to try out Explorer models.

The case wasn't the first or last time Ford appeared in court following a fatal SUV accident, but it was, as Penenberg points out, "a big case." In his 2003 book, entitled "Tragic Indifference," Penenberg chronicled Ford's many brushes with safety and the company's obtuse reaction to what was obviously a major problem.

Penenberg is right. If this isn't news, then what is?

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