Toyota Motor Corp has suspended sales of a new Lexus SUV in the U.S. market to investigate the risk for rollover accidents in the latest blow to the reputation of the world’s largest automaker.
Toyota took the unusual action of stopping sales of the 2010 Lexus GX 460 after Consumer Reports urged shoppers not to buy the sport utility vehicle, calling it a “safety risk” because of a potential handling problem in certain turns.
Toyota said its engineers were “vigorously testing” the SUV to identify the risk cited by Consumer Reports. The magazine said its own testing found the Lexus was prone to slide when driven in sweeping turns.
Toyota has sold about 5,400 of the Lexus GX 460 SUVs in the four months since it has been on the market. The GX, which is based on the same platform as the off-road ready Toyota 4Runner, starts at just over $50,000.
U.S. safety regulators have proposed a record $16.4 million fine against Toyota, the highest allowed, accusing the automaker of knowingly delaying a recall over the defective accelerator pedals and may seek more penalties. The recalls also sparked congressional hearings and numerous lawsuits.
Consumer Reports said the sliding its test drivers found in the GX 460 could cause rollover accidents resulting in serious injury or death. It said it knew of no reports of such accidents.
It said the risk of a rollover accident in the GX 460 was significant because it is a tall SUV with a high center of gravity. No other SUV had slid as far as the Lexus in its recent testing, including the Toyota 4Runner, the magazine said.
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