A child testing the emergency truck latch for Consumer Reports found a defect. (Toyota Motor Corp. )
Consumer Reports warned Friday that its testing found that the emergency interior trunk escape lever on the 2013 Lexus ES and GS can snap off during use, potentially leaving a trapped occupant without an escape mechanism.
Since 2002, federal safety regulations have required all vehicles sold with trunks in the U.S. to have a release that would allow someone trapped in the compartment to get out. Typically, automakers use a handle that can be tugged.
But Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' automotive test director, discovered in an unusual manner that the feature on several Lexus models doesn’t work.
He used his 4-year-old son to try out the system in 2013 Lexus ES 350 test car, showing him where the lever is and allowing him to climb into the trunk and attempt to release it when it was closed.
"My 4-year-old's small hands snapped off the lever that opens the lid. He was not able to escape from the trunk until I opened it from the outside," Fisher said.
Consumer Reports then tested the system on two other Lexus sedans owned by the magazine, the ES 300h and the GS 350. This time Fisher tried the system and learned that when the lever was pulled straight or toward the passenger side of the vehicle, it worked.
But when it was pulled toward the driver's side, "the plastic surround acts as a fulcrum and snaps the emergency release handle off easily, preventing the trunk from opening."
The magazine has notified both Toyota, which owns the Lexus brand, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the problem.
The government safety agency told Consumer Reports that it "is aware of the issue and is evaluating available information to determine if additional action is warranted." Toyota also said it planned to look into the issue.
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