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Toyota’s image took another hit today, as Consumer Reports magazine recommended that customers avoid the Lexus GX460 SUV. The model was redesigned for the 2010 model, and that is the only model affected by the magazine’s recommendation. CR believes the problem is in the calibration of the electronic stability control (ESC) system. CR testing revealed that the vehicle could roll over under certain, common driving situations. Specifically, when driven into a curve too fast and the driver lifts off of the gas pedal (not a panic braking or sudden swerve), the ESC will not intervene until the vehicle is almost sideways, according to CR. Under these circumstances, the vehicle could rollover. CR also pointed out that there are no actual reports of such an occurrence, but the risk is there. The Toyota Pathfinder, which is mechanically similar, was not found to have the same issue, lending credibility to the calibration idea. Click on the video to see the actual test.

Some have blamed the government for some of Toyota’s recent quality issues, saying that because the US government owns GM and Chrysler, they have purposely damaged Toyota’s quality reputation in order to improve GM and Chrysler’s sales. I do not subscribe to this idea, and it should be noted that Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is not part of nor controlled by the US government.

Lexus responded quickly, issuing a stop sale order to its dealers. They plan to evaluate the SUV using CR’s testing methods to see if they agree that there is an issue. Obviously, they will fix whatever they find. Note that the government is not involved at all (yet), and this is not a recall.

Toyota needs to get out of the spotlight, and quickly. I had just thought the other day that it had been a while since any bad news had come out about them. Now this. The longer they stay in the (negative) spotlight, the more damage will be done and the longer it will take them to repair the damage. Americans forget quickly, but we haven’t had the chance to forget. Heck, if we all developed ADHD, we would still have Toyota’s issue top of mind.

Lexus issued the following press releases today:

Early this morning:  “We’re concerned with the results of Consumer Reports testing on the Lexus GX 460 and their suggested buyer recommendation.  Our engineers conduct similar tests and we feel these procedures provide a good indication of how our vehicles will perform in the real-world; however, we will try to duplicate the Consumer Reports’ test to determine if appropriate steps need to be taken.  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.”
12 hours later:  “For more than 20 years, Lexus has made customer safety and satisfaction our highest priorities.  We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified. At this time we have asked our dealers to temporarily suspend sales of the 2010 GX 460.
Lexus’ extensive vehicle testing provides a good indication of how our vehicles perform and we are confident that the GX meets our high safety standards.  Our engineering teams are vigorously testing the GX using Consumer Reports’ specific parameters to identify how we can make the GX’s performance even better.
For any customer who has purchased a 2010 GX 460 and is concerned about driving their vehicle, we will provide a loaner car until a remedy is available.
As always, Lexus is committed to providing our customers with outstanding products and service.”
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