The Japan-based leadership of beleaguered Toyota Motor Sales late today gave an American sales executive permission to suspend sales of the new 2010 Lexus GX460 model. Another safety recall or service action is now a distinct possibility.
The latest crisis at Toyota came after Consumer Reports issued a safety warning earlier.
Consumer Reports, a long time proponent – critics say cheerleader – of Toyota’s quality, issued a rare “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” recommendation. (See Consumers Union Defends Role in Missing Toyota Unintended Acceleration Problems and Deaths)
The last time Consumer Reports issued a “Don’t Buy” was for the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited.
The Lexus GX460, the magazine claimed, was the worst, in terms of rollover potential among the 95 SUVs in its current automotive ratings.
The problem, apparently, concerns “trailing throttle oversteer,” or the tendency of the Lexus to have the rear end swing wide in a turn if the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal. This points the front of the SUV toward the inside of the turn. Uncorrected by either the driver or electronic controls, the SUV could hit the curb, creating a trip rollover.
As Consumer Report describes it, the electronic stability (yaw control) system of the Lexus does not intervene quickly enough, exactly the opposite calibration issue that Toyota engineering faced with the now recalled regenerative braking system of the 2010 Prius. In that instance, the electronic controls were too aggressive in its application. Either way, Toyota’s ability to integrate electronics into its vehicles is once again called into question. And another safety recall or service action looms.
Consumer Reports said it validated its rollover warning by testing two Lexus GX460 models, with each repeating the problem, though neither rolled over. The magazine hedged, though, saying that it is not aware of any specific reports of GX rollovers in the real world.