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The Real Reason America Banned The Honda ATC
In 1970, Honda brought the ATC 90 to market in the U.S., and the three-wheeled trike had a small footprint, was maneuverable, and easy to operate. At the low retail price of $595, the ATC was equipped with a 90cc four-stroke 7 horsepower engine, a four-speed transmission with an automatic clutch, and giant oversized balloon tires, in lieu of an actual suspension system.
Sales of the vehicle averaged about 10,000 per year, and by 1978, approximately 150,000 had been sold, helping to usher in the ATV boom of the 1980s. Honda, however, wanted to draw in consumers who thought motorcycles were too dangerous, so they capitalized on the small dimensions, which unfortunately had made them just the right size for kids to drive.
Honda made a 70cc version built explicitly for kids, but the young riders didn’t weigh enough to pull off the counterbalancing necessary to keep the ATV from flipping over. Due to the dramatic rise in severe injuries and, in some cases, death, the U.S. in 1988 banned sales of three-wheeled ATVs, and manufacturers agreed to back a $100 million safety campaign.