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Lexus suspends sales of GX SUV in wake of magazine report

Tue, 13 Apr 2010

Lexus said Tuesday that it was putting a temporary halt to sales of the 2010 GX 460 after Consumer Reports said it found the SUV to be a safety risk and urged its readers not to buy the vehicle until it is fixed. The magazine hasn't branded a vehicle as unfit to buy in nearly 10 years.

In a statement, Lexus general manager Mark Templin said Toyota Motor Corp. engineers were testing the GX 460 to Consumer Reports' specific parameters. Templin said Lexus would offer loaner vehicles to people who have bought a GX 460 until a fix is found.

The report and stop-sale order represent another hit to Toyota's quality image, which has been battered in the media the past several weeks by reports of unintended acceleration in several vehicles and a massive recall to repair throttle pedals.

The magazine says its testers found that the back end of the GX was prone to swinging out if the driver quickly lets off the throttle in the midst of a tight turn. We enthusiasts know that event as lift-throttle oversteer.

The problem, according to the magazine, is that the GX's stability-control system doesn't kick in soon enough to minimize the oversteer. In Consumer Reports' mind, this leads to a risk that the SUV's wheel could bang into a curb or drop off the road edge and possibly lead to a rollover.

“CR believes that in real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death,” the magazine said in a statement. “CR is not aware, however, of any such reports.”

And Consumer Reports says it hasn't seen the issue in the Toyota 4Runner SUV, which shares a platform with the Lexus GX.

Toyota says it is looking into the concerns raised by the magazine and will try to duplicate its test results.

In a statement, Toyota said:

“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.”

The last time the magazine declared a vehicle not acceptable was in 2001 for the Mitsubishi Montero Limited.

By Dale Jewett