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Toyota testing all of its SUVs in wake of Consumer Reports' warning

Troubled carmaker says it will study the entire lineup for stability control. The move comes after the magazine's warning about the 2010 Lexus GX 460.

April 15, 2010|By Tiffany Hsu
  • Toyota has temporarily halted sales of the Lexus GX 460 SUV, shown through windshield, in response to a do-not-buy warning by Consumer Reports.
Toyota has temporarily halted sales of the Lexus GX 460 SUV, shown through… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday that it had begun testing its entire lineup of SUVs after Consumer Reports magazine warned Lexus GX 460 owners that the vehicle could be prone to rolling over.

Engineers in Japan, where Toyota is based, will study all of its sport utility vehicles on test tracks there, the company said. In addition to Lexus SUVs, Toyota will be checking the stability-control system for models such as the 4Runner and the Highlander.

The automaker stopped selling and began testing the Lexus model just hours after the influential buyer's guide placed the vehicle on its do-not-buy list.

The move followed months of recalls and federal investigations into safety defects in Toyota vehicles.

After conducting a battery of tests designed in-house, Toyota will now try to replicate the rollover problem using tests based on the Consumer Reports trial, said spokesman Brian Lyons.

The magazine found in routine testing that the rear of the GX 460 could slide out when the vehicle was "pushed to its limits" on sharp turns, causing the vehicle to turn almost sideways. Instead of preventing skidding, the computerized stability-control system lagged, testers found.

"We haven't determined the appropriate solution, but Consumer Reports has identified an issue that we need to resolve," Lyons said. "We've made some pretty drastic steps based off their input."

Production of the GX 460 will shut down starting Friday through April 28, and Toyota has halted sales of the model around the world, Lyons said. But the company has yet to decide whether it will recall the SUV.

The Toyota 4Runner is built on the same platform as the Lexus GX 460. But it has not been the subject of complaints and will continue to be produced, Lyons said.

There are about 5,400 GX 460s in the U.S., with 1,600 of them at dealerships, he said.

Lexus, known as Toyota's luxury arm, said on its website that it would offer rental cars to any GX 460 drivers who feel unsafe in their cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing the Consumer Reports findings and running its own tests on the Lexus model after issuing its own warning to consumers to "use care and caution" when driving the vehicle.

Toyota has issued nearly 10 million recall notices globally for sticky gas pedals and faulty floor-mat designs that the company says is linked to sudden-acceleration concerns. Some hybrid models are being blamed for braking problems.

The automaker also has until Monday to decide whether to contest a $16.4-million fine by the U.S. Transportation Department, which accused Toyota of stalling before issuing the recalls.

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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