The last couple of years have not been a smooth ride for Polaris. Since 2016 the company has had to recall more than 550,000 off-road vehicles due to fire hazards. The bigger problem, however, is that the company knew about the source of this problem for years before taking action.
The issues began in 2013 when Polaris learned of defective heat shields on the company’s line of RZR ATVs. Although Polaris was aware of the bad parts and potential for rider injury, the issue wasn’t addressed until a 15-year-old rider was killed when her RTR flipped and caught fire in 2015.
Tens of thousands of RTRs were recalled and Polaris pledged to fix the problem. Until they didn’t and 10 more burned riders and five additional fires were reported over the next year.
It would take until September 2016 for Polaris to notify the Consumer Products Safety Commission of the defect and issue a recall of over 100,000 RTR and Ranger vehicles.
Incredibly enough, the story doesn’t end there. The company would recall over 100,000 vehicles in December of 2017 and again this month due to issues with, you guessed it, defective heat shields surrounding the exhaust that were burning riders and creating fire hazards.
Evidently, the CPSC had enough.
In addition to the latest recall encompassing 107,000 vehicles, the company was also fined $27 million for failing to notify the agency in a timely manner of the heat shield issue, even though Polaris had good information on the defects and risks to riders. In fact, since these issues first came to light, the defective heat shields are reportedly responsible for 150 fires, 11 burns, one death and a 10-acre wildfire.
The CPSC does acknowledge that Polaris conducted "reasonable, expeditious, and diligent investigations" into the causes. The company also points to investments it has made in people and processes focused on improving product quality and safety.
In addition to the fine, the recalls have cost Polaris $340 million in warranty costs over the last two years.