Toyota has suspended sales of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 worldwide after a US consumer magazine warning and said it would test all of its other SUV models.
Toyota had previously asked Lexus dealers in North America to halt sales of their GX 460 sport-utility vehicles after “Consumer Reports Magazine” labelled the model a “safety risk,” the magazine’s first such designation in nine years but has now extended the sale suspension.
“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, U.S. general manager for the luxury brand, said in an e-mail.
The 2010 GX 460 received the designation and a “don’t buy” recommendation because emergency driving tests indicated it may be prone to rollover accidents, Consumer Reports said yesterday. The non-profit magazine, published by New York based Consumers Union, said it hadn’t deemed any other vehicle a safety risk since 2001.
The rating further complicates Toyota’s efforts to repair its image after recalling more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for defects linked to unintended acceleration and brakes, actions that led to U.S. congressional hearings and a rebuke by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The GX’s rear end “slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control” at a Connecticut test track, the magazine said. “In real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death,” Consumer Reports said.
Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, said its engineers will review the magazine’s findings and try to duplicate the test results. A decision on whether to conduct a recall would follow, company spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said in Tokyo.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it’s in the process of checking the GX 460 to ensure compliance with standards for electronic stability control, which “should prevent the kind of fishtail event described in the CU’s tests.” Drivers of the Lexus SUV should “use care and caution,” the agency said in a statement yesterday.
Toyota has sold 5,400 units of the model in North America since it was introduced in November. The company has also sold 620 in the Middle East, Russia, and the Oceania region. Toyota hasn’t decided its response in those regions, Takeuchi said.
The GX has a starting price of about $52,000, according to Lexus’s Web site. The model accounted for 10 percent of Lexus brand sales in the first three months of 2010, according to Edmunds.com.
The magazine’s safety ratings have caused other automakers to sue Consumers Union. After Isuzu Motors Ltd. sued over a “not acceptable” rating on its 1996 Trooper SUV, a federal jury in Los Angeles in 2000 ruled that Consumers Union hadn’t libelled or defamed the company.
A Suzuki Motor Corp. lawsuit over a Consumers Union rating of the Samurai small SUV was dismissed in 2000 by a federal judge in Santa Ana, California.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in 2001 attacked the magazine’s “not acceptable” safety rating on the Montero Limited SUV as a misrepresentation. Consumers Union stood by its tests, in which it said the vehicle tipped onto two wheels in turns.