Toyota is once again under the microscope following a Consumer Reports investigation that found the federally-mandated emergency trunk release in some Lexus models to be lacking.
Consumer Reports squeals on Lexus
Consumer Reports has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of its findings in an investigation of the 2013 Lexus ES and GS sedans.
The consumer watchdog says the emergency trunk release handle could break off should somebody, trapped inside the trunk, try to pull it. That would result in the release being inoperable, “potentially leaving a trapped occupant without any way to escape.”
CR says it also checked other models in the Lexus line, but found no trace of the problem with any of the others.
Upon notification of the problem, Toyota, the parent of Lexus, launched its own, apparently top secret, internal investigation. The automaker said:
“Upon hearing the information from Consumer Reports, we immediately began investigating the durability and ergonomics of
the emergency trunk release lever. This is an active investigation and we cannot provide more details at this time.”
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The problem was actually discovered by a four-year-old. Jake Fisher, one of CR’s testers, had his boys with him on the job. His younger son climbed into the trunk to help out his dad when the handle broke off.
Since 2002, all passenger cars sold in the U.S. have required to include a glow-in-the-dark emergency release handle inside the trunk door.
Not good timing for Toyota
The added scrutiny comes at a bad time for Toyota. It had been rebuilding trust with its market base following multiple rounds of recalls for unintended acceleration issues in 2009 and 2010. Then, earlier this week, it issued a worldwide recall of multiple models for a potential fire hazard from less-than-magic Toyota parts in the driver’s side door. Only yesterday it came to light that the automaker had been aware of the issue four years earlier.
Both Toyota and federal regulators are still deciding what further action, if any, needs to be taken.
CR previously targeted Lexus
In 2010 CR also ratted out the Lexus GX SUV to the NHTSA. It found a problem with the stability control system that increased the risk of rollover crashes.