Toyota Halts Sale of Lexus SUV After Consumer Reports Warning

Just hours after Consumer Reports issued a “not acceptable” rating for the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV, Toyota has suspended sales of the vehicle. While the automaker did not issue a recall for the SUV, it is offering current owners use of loaner cars while it tries to figure out why it failed a Consumer Reports’ handling test.

The “not acceptable” rating was meted out by Consumer Reports after its tests showed the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV was prone to slide when driven in sweeping turns. The publication said the sliding its test drivers found in the GX 460 could cause rollover accidents resulting in serious injury or death. Ideally, the vehicle’s electronic stability control system would stop such a slide.

No other SUV had slid as far as the Lexus GX 460 in its recent testing, Consumer Reports said. “CR is urging consumers not to buy the GX 460 until the problem has been fixed,” the magazine said in a statement.

The “not acceptable” rating is extremely rare. In fact, the last time Consumer Reports concluded that a vehicle was “not acceptable” for consumers to buy was in 2001, when it warned consumers away from the Mitsubishi Montero Limited.

In a statement late Tuesday, Toyota said engineering teams were testing the GX 460 using Consumer Reports’ methodology. “We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified,” said Mark Templin, Lexus Group vice president and general manager.

According to Reuters, Toyota has sold about 5,400 of the Lexus GX 460 SUVs in the four months since it has been on the market. The GX starts at just over $50,000.

In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was in contact with both Consumer Reports and the automaker. The statement said the agency “advises drivers of the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV to use care and caution”. As of Tuesday, the NHTSA’s files showed no record of consumer complaints related to the 2010 Lexus GX 460.

The Lexus SUV problems couldn’t come at a worse time for Toyota, which is still reeling from recalls it’s issued because of problems with unintended acceleration. Since last fall, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems involving sudden acceleration. Toyota has blamed the speed control issues on defective floor mats and faulty gas pedals. In the U.S., five deaths have occurred in auto accidents involving the unintended acceleration of a Toyota or Lexus vehicle. Last August, a California Highway Patrol trooper and three members of his family were killed in such a crash in San Diego County, just south of Orange. Dozens of other fatalities over the past decade alleged to be the result of Toyota unintended acceleration crashes are currently being investigated by the NHTSA.

Earlier this month, the NHTSA announced it was seeking the maximum penalty allowed by law – $16.375 million – from Toyota for the way it handled a January accelerator pedal recall. The agency is also said to be considering other fines related to Toyota’s September floor mat recall.

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