• In another blow to Toyota, company pulls Lexus SUV from the market after Consumer Reports says vehicle is potentially dangerous Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Toyota pulled its luxury division SUV from the market Tuesday after Consumer Reports magazine issued a “don’t buy” warning and revealed that the vehicle is prone to potentially dangerous fishtailing while cornering at high speeds.

    The decision comes as the auto giant continues to grapple with a separate slate of troubles with its vehicle fleet involving sudden unintended accelleration that prompted a massive recall and government investigations.

    The latest blow involved a single vehicle, the high-end Lexus GX 460 SUV. The consumer watchdog organization reported in an article posted on its website that the SUV would swerve badly while attempting to slow heading into a corner during routine tests at the magazine’s testing facility in Connecticut. For only the second time in a decade, Consumer Reports issued a “don’t buy” warning to its readers. 

    In a video that accompanies the article, the SUV can been seen with its rear end swerving badly during the cornering manuever involving the driver lifting off the accelerator to reduce speed heading into a turn. The magazines editors say that in a real-world situation, such as a driver entering a freeway exit ramp at too high a speed, that sort of performance could lead to a potential rollover accident. Consumer Reports has notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the problem.

    The “don’t buy” designation marked the first time since 2001 that the magazine has issued such a warning to consumers. The last car to be hit by that black mark was the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited.

    Toyota initially responded to the magazine’s report with an on-line statement expressing concern over the results of the test, but saying their engineers never encountered the problem when conducting similar tests. The statement said the auto giant would try to duplicate the test, quickly evaluate the results and “determine if appropriate steps need to be taken.”

    In the meantime, the company statement said, “please keep in mind that the 2010 GX 460 meets or exceeds all federal government testing requirements.  Customer safety and satisfaction remain our highest priorities.  We take the Consumer Reports’ test results seriously and appreciate Consumer Reports bringing it to our attention.”

    But later in the day, as a firestorm of media attention and cutomer complaints began to grow, Toyota took further action and pulled the SUV from the market until tests can confirm what changes might need to be made to ensure the safety of the vehicle.

    “At this time we have asked our dealers to temporarily suspend sales of the 2010 GX 460,” Mark Templin, the group vice president and general manager, told the New York Times.

    –Eric Bailey

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