Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Toyota SUV Tests Show They Are Getting Message

Lexus GX 460
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Overnight, Toyota executives in Japan made the decision to test all of the company's SUVs to see if any of them have an issue with their electronic stability control, as is suspected with 2010 Lexus GX 460 models.

When this announcement came out early this morning, the initial reaction for some might have been, "uh oh, does Toyota have another safety/reliability issue that is about to explode?" In reality, this is a case of Toyota executives doing the prudent thing and taking the appropriate steps to address electronic stability control questions right away.

This shows how much the message from NHTSA and the Department of Transportation over the last five months is getting through to Toyota.

Toyota said earlier this week it will test its Lexus GX 460 following a unusual warning from Consumer Reports that people not buy the luxury SUV. Despite the fact Lexus says the vehicle meets all Federal safety standards and that there have been no accidents reported, Toyota is suspending GX 460 sales and checking if it needs to make changes to the vehicles stability control system. It's the right thing to do.

But Toyota realizes the GX 460 story could prompt potential customers to question if other Toyota SUVs have a similar issue. So it's trying to stop those ideas from circulating, by testing all of its sport utility vehicles to see if they are a safety risk. There's never been any data suggesting a problem with Toyota SUVs, and Toyota's tests will likely show the vehicles respond to emergency handling as they should.

That's the idea for Toyota. Instead of taking the approach that it has in recent years, the company is now trying to correct a potentially devastating situation before it blows up.

Sure, Toyota could have said it will only test the GX 460, but with the company under so much scrutiny, that would be seen by some as not going far enough. So the company will run the tests and publicize the results. In a few weeks, the Toyota SUV safety story could be on the back burner and a non-issue for potential buyers.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has said several times that his company needs to get back to its core values, especially when it comes to safety and reliability. When he first pledged to do this, many rolled their eyes and said, "Yeah, this is what every CEO says when his company is in trouble." Now, with the additional SUV testing, Toyota is showing that it's following through Mr.. Toyoda's promise.

It's taken a while, but the message appears to be getting through.


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