Toyota to Test All Its SUVs, Freezes Global Sales on Lexus GX 460s

GX 460s on the lot

GX 460s on the lot

As much as the company dragged its feet on the acceleration problem, Toyota has been a model of rapid response on the Lexus oversteer issue. So much so that it may well set a pattern for the industry in years to come.

Talk about sensitivity! All sales of the GX have been halted, worldwide; the launch of the car in China is on hold; testing is underway in Japan to replicate the problem Consumer Reports found; and “full-scale testing” for vehicle stability of all the company’s SUVs has begun.

After being slapped hard on the wrist by Congress, the NHTSA, and public opinion, the company is also responding to the influence on car buyers wielded by Consumer Reports. We may think that influence is misplaced, as reported yesterday, but it is a big factor in car sales still.

Toyota is also acting quickly because it is facing the possibility of a second fine from NHTSA. The first one, for $16.4 million (the largest ever levied by the agency), may be followed by a second for foot-dragging on its recalls—now 8 million and counting, worldwide.

And the bad press keeps coming: The Associated Press put out another damaging story last Sunday about Toyota’s “routine” evasions and failure to produce evidence in lawsuits against it. “They don’t care about safety,” said one of the plaintiffs. “I wouldn’t take another Toyota if they gave it to me.”

So the company’s quick action today is understandable. From the point of view of actual car safety, however, it’s clearly an overreaction. The CR test (the offending skid, right) continues to raise questions, not the least of which is why we have come to rely so heavily on “electro-nannies” (as one commenter referred to devices like electronic stability control) to take over our driving duties.

As Car and Driver said,

drivers of top-heavy SUVs, or any vehicle for that matter, are ultimately responsible for knowing the physical limitations of their vehicles and driving accordingly.

So far, nobody’s rolled over in a GX 460, and one hopes the flaw in the stability control will be found and fixed soon.

People who drive 5,300-pound overpowered car-trucks need all the help they can get. Do you agree? What kind of help?

—jgoods

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1 Comment

  1. This is a moot point because ALL vehicles will have stability systems starting in 2012. Car & Driver writers live in la-la land because they seem to think that every driver possesses their level of driving skill and every car should be a 500HP handling machine, which, of course, is the exact opposite of reality. 30,000+ deaths a year tell the story, and these systems save lives. There are some kinks that need to be worked out, such as air bags being tuned for unbelted drivers, resulting in an increase in deaths and injuries for belted drivers. But ultimately, these systems help protect the loose nut behind the wheel.

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