On April 13, 2010, Consumer Reports announced it was giving the Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicle (SUV) a Do Not Buy rating. This is a rare occurrence. The Do Not Buy rating for the Lexus SUV is the first one issued in nine years. The last one was for the 2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited. Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes the Consumer Reports magazine and Web site, has labeled just 12 cars with this extreme rating over the last 31 years.
In test drives, Consumer Reports engineers discovered that when the GX 460 was pushed to its limits, the rear of the vehicle would slide out until it was nearly sideways before the electronic stability control system kicked in and righted the vehicle. They believe this means the vehicle is in danger of rolling over in certain real-world driving situations.
Some people may become skeptical when reading the details of the test performed, and the conclusions drawn from it. Pushing a vehicle to a high rate of acceleration, and then trying to turn may not seem like a real-world situation. No responsible person drives that way. But be careful not to confuse real-world situations with everyday situations. The vehicle may not present a rollover risk when driving through a grocery store parking lot, or in a 35-mile-per-hour residential area. A real-world driving situation, however, can include veering to avoid a car accident or other obstacle in the road. It can mean driving in extreme weather conditions. The engineers at Consumer Reports take these possibilities into account when performing vehicle test drives.
Another thing to note is that Consumers Union is an independent organization. Every single product tested, from blenders to cars, is purchased outright. They receive no sponsorship, and do not accept any form of advertising for either the magazine or the Web site. This ensures their impartiality when assigning ratings to consumer products.
A few days before announcing their decision, Consumer Reports notified Toyota, the parent company of Lexus, of its findings and intention to assign the Do Not Buy rating. Toyota technicians visited the test site and inspected the test vehicles. After some deliberation, Toyota decided to implement a voluntary recall of the Lexus GX 460. This affects approximately 9,400 vehicles worldwide. Toyota is now working to update the stability control software, and address the rollover risk issue.
If you were thinking about buying a Lexus GX 460, it’s highly recommended that you hold off, at least until the recall is over, and the stability control problem has been corrected. If you were planning on buying a Toyota, you may want to check the auto maker’s list of vehicles that are currently in recall status. The list includes 12 different vehicles, and two models of the same vehicle, for a total of 13 vehicles.
If you already own a Lexus GX 460, or any of the vehicles on the recall list, contact Toyota directly, or talk to your local dealer. They will be able to help you understand how the recall affects your vehicle, what exact issue caused the recall, how it’s being remedied, and what you should be doing to protect yourself and your family.
With the recent Toyota Prius brake safety issues, this latest recall does not bode well for Toyota’s sales. The company does seem to be responding quickly to complaints and problems, and has embarked on an aggressive public relations and advertising campaign to allay fears about its products. But every time a new vehicle is added to that recall list, the company’s long-held good reputation suffers a little more.