Reports that installation rates of antilock brake systems in new cars held steady from 1994 through 1996 wrongly imply that this most important active safety feature has hit the wall with consumers.
Those reports neglect to mention more encouraging figures in the most robust segment of the US market, where installation rates of four-wheel ABS in light trucks and sport-utilities have nearly doubled - from 32 percent to 63 percent - during those same three years.
And that does not include two-wheel ABS systems which, in 1996, were on another 26 percent of light trucks.
As North America's leading producer of two-wheel and four-wheel antilock brakes, we recognize that some competitors take issue with categorizing two-wheel systems as bona fide ABS units.
Two-wheel ABS prevents the rear wheels from locking, thus providing crucial directional stability to vehicles of varying load levels and higher centers of gravity than passenger cars.
Basically, they prevent light trucks from going into a spin during emergency braking situations.
So nearly 90 percent of 1996 model light trucks and sport-utilities are equipped with ABS.
It is well known that some automakers, concerned about affordability, have in recent years reduced equipment levels in some models. ABS is now optional on some models that once included it as standard.
It is, nonetheless, a mistake to portray the ABS cup as half empty and leaking when, in fact, it is half full and filling in the strongest segment of the market.
It is clear to us that whatever is slowing ABS installation rates in cars has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the technology and much to do with public misperception.
Reversing public misperception is a big chore. But there is good reason for encouragement: ABS works, and the industry knows it works.
General Motors, the leading automaker in North America, includes ABS as standard equipment on almost all its cars and trucks.
Volkswagen, the leading automaker in Europe, plans to make ABS standard on the upcoming generation of its mainstream mainstay, the Golf.
Toyota, the leading automaker in Japan, is moving rapidly toward putting ABS on everything it sells at home. And in North America, ABS is standard on six-cylinder models of its popular Camry line.
With rare exceptions, ABS is standard on high-end models of all brands. Can anyone imagine a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW without ABS?
From a technical perspective, it would be uncharacteristic for an engineering-oriented industry like ours to under-utilize active safety systems whose sensors and microprocessors are building blocks for future advances in traction control, stability control, brake assist and electronic braking.
We have confidence in the future of ABS because it's just too good to go away.