Toyota orders safety tests on 4x4s

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Toyota said today it was testing the safety of all its sport-utility vehicles after an American consumer magazine warned that the Lexus GX 460 could roll over and told readers not to buy it.

The Japanese car maker said it had not yet decided whether to recall the GX 460, which is sold mainly in North America, but also in the Middle East, Russia and some other nations.



Toyota halted its sales of the GX 460 in North America yesterday, following the Consumer Reports story, acting relatively quickly after being criticised as slow in responding to consumer complaints on faulty accelerator pedals, defective floor mats and braking software glitches.



The car maker said it was carrying out tests that were as close as possible to those by Consumer Reports.



The magazine issued a rare warning not to buy the vehicle because its driving tests revealed a problem that could cause the vehicle to roll over.



Toyota has said that it does not yet know what the possible problems could be, but was working on it so Consumer Reports would be able to retest the GX 460 and give it a satisfactory rating.



Consumer Reports, widely read by many US car buyers because of its reputation as fair, has raised red flags over Toyotas before. In January, the magazine withdrew its "recommended" rating on eight vehicles recalled by the car maker because of faulty accelerator pedals.



For the GX 460, Consumer Reports said the problem occurred during tests on its track. In a standard test, the driver approached a turn unusually fast, then released the accelerator pedal to simulate the response of an alarmed driver. This caused the rear of the vehicle to slide outwards.



Under normal circumstances the electronic stability control should quickly correct the loss of control and keep the SUV on its intended path.



But with the GX 460, the stability control took too long to adjust, which could cause a rollover accident if one of the sliding wheels were to strike the kerb or another obstacle, according to Consumer Reports.



Toyota said it sold about 6,000 of the GX 460 worldwide. The manufacturer behind the Prius hybrid and Camry saloon makes a wide range of sport-utility vehicles, including the RAV4, Land Cruiser and 4Runner.



Since October, Toyota has recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide and has promised to be more transparent and responsive to consumer complaints.

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