A harsh warning by a US consumer organisation prompted Toyota Motor Corp to halt sales of 2010 Lexus GX 460 sport-utility vehicles late Tuesday because of possible safety issues.
“We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified,” Mark Templin, US general manager for the luxury brand, told Bloomberg financial news service in an e-mail.
Templin said Toyota had told its dealers to stop selling the car for the time being.
Consumer Reports, a well-respected US magazine that evaluates products for their value and performance, issued a rare “don’t buy” recommendation for the 2010 model of the SUV.
It last issued such a warning nine years ago.
The magazine’s engineers had found that the car too easily slid out during emergency handling tests and could roll over in similar situations.
“When pushed to its limits on our track’s handling course, the rear of the GX we bought slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to gain control,” Consumer Reports wrote in its online edition.
Toyota is already reeling from a worldwide recall of more than 8 million vehicles because of brake problems and uncontrollable acceleration. The US government has launched an investigation into whether the Japanese car company purposely withheld its awareness of the safety problems from US regulators.
Consumer Reports said that all four of its engineers experienced a similar problem during a routine test where the Lexus was driven through a turn and the driver “quickly” lifted his foot off the gas pedal.
The magazine said that in real life, drivers often follow the impulse to lift their foot off the gas pedal if they suddenly meet an obstacle or find themselves in too-tight a turn.
“If that were to happen in the GX, the rear could slide around far enough that a wheel could strike a curb or slide off the pavement,” the magazine found. Either scenario could cause a rollover, especially because of the SUV’s high centre of gravity.
Toyota spokesman Joe Tetherow was quoted as saying by Consumer Reports that Toyota would “try to duplicate” the test to “determine if appropriate steps need to be taken.” About 5,000 Lexus SUVs had been sold in the three months it has been on the US market, the magazine said.
“No other SUV in recent years slid out as far as the GX 460, including the Toyota 4Runner, which shares the same platform as the GX,” Consumer Reports wrote.