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Toyota to test SUVs for safety

Re-test: Toyota will reassess the handling of its full range of SUVs, including the RAV4, after a US magazine criticised the Lexus GX460.

Toyota to re-test its full range of SUVs in wake of Lexus GX460 safety issue

Toyota logo15 Apr 2010


TOYOTA Motor Corporation (TMC) will re-test the handling safety of its full range of SUV models – including the LandCruiser, LandCruiser Prado and the RAV4 – after suspending global sales of the Lexus GX460 earlier this week.

The company has not suspended sales of any other models, despite initiating a worldwide showroom freeze on the GX after a consumer magazine in the US determined the Prado-based vehicle was a “safety risk” that could be involved in a rollover crash.

As GoAuto reported yesterday, Toyota Australia was awaiting specific advice from TMC but said it had no plans to suspend sales of Australia’s biggest-selling SUV – the LandCruiser Prado – in response to events overseas.

The GX460 is not currently sold in Australia.

TMC spokesman Mieko Iwasaki told AFP today that Toyota will continue to sell the LandCruiser, Prado and the RAV4 models while its engineers were re-testing them.

“The company will start testing all the other SUV models, including the LandCruiser, LandCruiser Prado and RAV4,” Mr Iwasaki said.

 center image From Top: Toyota Prado, Toyota LandCruiser, Lexus GX460.

The recall-hit Japanese manufacturer has reacted swiftly to the unfolding SUV safety problem after being criticised for not acting quickly enough – and being accused by the US transportation secretary Ray LaHood earlier this month of “knowingly hiding a dangerous defect” – in relation to the separate issue of sticky accelerator pedals.

Influential magazine Consumer Reports this week handed down a “don’t buy” verdict for the GX460 after experiencing a problem during its emergency handling tests. It said that when pushed to its limits, the rear of the GX “slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control”.

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

In response, Toyota suspended sales of the GX460 pending a “vigorous” engineering evaluation.

Australian journalists have also highlighted handling issues with Toyota SUVs, with Fairfax questioning the LandCruiser’s stability control system in its Car of the Year testing last year, and Wheels magazine criticising the Kluger after its editor rolled the SUV during its 2007 COTY testing.

Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen told GoAuto that the issue with the GX was specific to the US market, despite it being built on the same platform (and in the same factory) as the Australian Prado.

He said issues such as the GX’s V8 engine, additional weight and ESC (or VSC, in Toyota terminology) calibration separated it from the Australian Prado.

“We obviously don’t sell that model here, so it doesn’t affect us,” Mr Breen said.

“From what I understand, the article went to great lengths to explain that the (Toyota) 4Runner that they sell in the United States with the V6 engine is based on the Prado platform as well and there are no issues with the V6 4Runner there, so there are no issues with the Prado here.

“The calibration of the VSC would be different for the V8 car, which would be different obviously to the Prado that we sell here. The VSCs are calibrated to the environment that they operate in, and the Australian environment is obviously quite different to the United States.

“We have had no enquiries or any concerns from customers about that issue, and that’s obviously how we pick it up – and we’ve sold quite a few thousand since we launched it.

“No customers have complained about the VSC coming in too late, or any concerns with the VSC’s operation as far as timing is concerned,” he said.

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