Toyota Suspends Sales of Lexus SUV After Safety Warning

Consumer Reports magazine issued a rare 'Don't Buy' rating for the 2010 Lexus BX460 due to risk from electronic stability control system.

Toyota has suspended North American sales of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 after a consumer magazine issued a safety warning, in the latest blow to the embattled Japanese automaker's reputation.

Consumer Reports gave the sports utility vehicle a rare "Don't Buy: Safety Risk" rating after finding safety risks when testing the car. When pushed to its limits, the rear of the GX "slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control," the magazine said.

"We believe that in real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death," it added, although cautioning it was "not aware of any such reports."

In response Toyota said it asked dealers to "temporarily suspend sales of the 2010 GX 460" in the United States, but insisted it was "confident that the GX meets our high safety standards."

Toyota also asked dealers in Canada "to temporarily suspend delivery" of the same model.

Toyota said it was concerned by the Consumer Reports rating and had not experienced any similar problems in its own tests. It offered to provide a loan car to concerned GX 460 owners until it had identified a remedy.

"We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified," Toyota said. "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."

The company faces a record $16.4 million fine in the U.S. for its failure to notify authorities quickly about vehicle safety problems. And its troubles are not over yet, with the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) warning Toyota in a letter obtained on April 10 by AFP that it could slap another fine on the Japanese automaker.

The automaker has been hit with at least 97 lawsuits seeking damages for injury or death linked to sudden acceleration and 138 class action lawsuits from customers suing to recoup losses in the resale value of Toyota vehicles following the recalls.

It has also suspended production of some Lexus models in Japan over problems with the braking system.

The beleaguered automaker recently announced it would reshape its global operations as part of efforts to "regain consumer confidence" by boosting transparency and speeding up the decision-making process for recalls.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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