Toyota to Test SUVs for Stability Problems

Toyota said today it will be testing all of its SUVs to ensure their safety. The announcement follows the company’s earlier decision to suspend sales of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV following Consumer Reports’ issuance of a “not acceptable” rating for the vehicle.

Consumer Reports issued the rare “not acceptable” rating Tuesday, after its tests determined that the GX 460 SUV was prone to slide when driven in sweeping turns. According to the report, this could cause rollover accidents resulting in serious injury or death. Ideally, the vehicle’s electronic stability control system would stop such a slide. The publication advised consumers not to buy the Lexus GX 460.

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.

Hours after Consumer Reports published its rating, Toyota announced it was suspending sales of the GX 460 in the U.S. and Canada. The automaker has since suspended sales of the vehicle in markets elsewhere in the world. While the automaker has not decided if it will issue a recall for the SUV, it is offering current owners use of loaner cars while it tries to figure out why it failed Consumer Reports’ handling test.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Toyota is now seeking to recreate the situations in which the GX 460 was examined by Consumer Reports to determine whether its SUVs have stability problems. Testing will include current models of Toyota’s Rav4, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia, Land Cruiser and Sienna. It is not known how long the tests will take to complete.

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.

Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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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