WASHINGTON – Toyota Motor Corp. is temporarily halting sales of the 2010 Lexus GX 460 after Consumer Reports issued a rare “Don’t Buy” warning amid concerns the large SUV has handling problems that could cause it to roll over during sharp turns.
The Japanese automaker said Tuesday it had asked dealers to temporarily suspend sales of the SUV while it conducts its own tests on the GX 460.
“We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified,” said Mark Templin, Lexus vice president and general manager.
The decision to stop selling the SUV is the latest blow to Toyota after the recall of millions of cars and trucks over gas pedals that are too slow to retract or that can become stuck under floor mats. The GX 460 is not covered by the pedal recalls.
But it reflects Toyota’s attempt to respond more quickly to safety concerns after federal investigators accused the automaker of dragging its feet on recalls to address the faulty gas pedals. Toyota faces a $16.4 million fine from the Transportation Department and has until April 19 to decide whether to contest the penalty or accept it.
Toyota said about 6,000 GX 460s from the 2010 model year have been sold since the vehicle went on sale in late December and an estimated 1,600 of the SUVs are at dealerships.
Consumer Reports is closely read by many car buyers before choosing a new car or truck. In January, it pulled its “recommended” rating on eight vehicles recalled by the automaker.
The magazine said the Lexus problem occurred during tests on its track. In a standard test, the driver approached a turn unusually fast, then released the accelerator pedal to simulate the response of an alarmed driver. This caused the rear of the vehicle to slide outward.
In normal cases, the electronic stability control should quickly correct the loss of control. But with the GX 460, the stability control took too long to adjust, which could cause a rollover accident if one of the sliding wheels were to strike the curb or another obstacle, said Gabriel Shenhar, Consumer Reports’ senior auto test engineer and one of four testers who experienced the problem.
Templin said in a statement he was “confident that the GX meets our high safety standards” and said Toyota’s engineering teams were testing the GX using Consumer Reports’ specific parameters. Lexus will provide a loaner car for any customer who bought a 2010 GX 460 and is concerned about driving the vehicle, Templin said.
Customers who have questions or concerns about the GX 460 can call Lexus at (800) 255-3987.