POSTED: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - 9:28pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 22, 2010 - 2:30am
Consumer Reports has called a big Lexus SUV unsafe, at a time when Toyota just doesn’t need any more bad publicity.
But is the charge legitimate and how is the automaker fighting back?
I wrote my first automotive magazine article in 1980, and soon learned that among my autowriter colleagues, Consumer Reports isn’t held in high esteem.
The saying is, if you want to buy a car, read Car and Driver. If you want to buy a toaster, read Consumer Reports.
But right now, for Toyota, that’s not much comfort.
Consumer Reports has labeled the Lexus GX 460 unsafe and told readers to avoid buying the vehicle.
They say the $50,000 truck is unstable in a high speed turn when you suddenly lift off the throttle.
They’ve done this twice before, and been forced in court to retract what they said.
They called the Suzuki Samurai unsafe back in 1988, and killed sales in the US. in 1996, it was the Isuzu Trooper that was accused of being dangerously unstable.
When challenged in court, it was revealed that Consumer Reports essentially rigged the tests. in the case of the Samurai, trying over 30 times before they could go fast enough, and turn the wheel sharply enough to make it tip.
But, for Toyota who have been battered with legitimate complaints from the US government, an Associated Press investigation and leaked memos from one of it’s own executives, it doesn’t matter.
Lexus spokesman Bill Kwong told us,“At this point we’re trying to duplicate the tests in Japan and if we can get it to do that, then at that point we can find out why they’re doing that.”
“To have a label of don’t buy put on your vehicle,” says Rebecca Lindland of Global Insight Auto Analytics, “is extremely serious at any time. But at this time in particular, is really difficult for the brand.”
Calling its cash cow the Lexus GX 460 unstable at speed is yet another body blow to a corporation that just 5 months ago, could do no wrong.
“But,” Kwong says, “we take Consumer Reports road test results very seriously and we appreciate them bringing it to our attention.”
Although I secretly suspect they don't appreciate one little bit. This is a serious time for what is for the moment, the largest automaker in the world.
Toyota has basked in an aura of perfection for years that is now gone.
How they cope with the aftermath will determine the future of a great car company.