UPDATE 2-Emergency Lexus trunk lever breaks easily

(Adds comment from NHTSA spokesman)

By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Co's 2013 Lexus ES and GS models have an emergency trunk lever that snaps off easily and may trap someone inside, Consumer Reports magazine said on Friday, prompting the automaker and safety regulators to review the problem.

The issue was discovered inadvertently when the young son of Jake Fisher, automotive testing director for the magazine, climbed into the trunk of a Lexus ES sedan that Fisher was testing.

"My four-year-old son, who is 30 pounds soaking wet, was knocking on the trunk, saying 'Dad, let me out,'" Fisher, who was standing nearby, said. The lever "had snapped right off."

Since the 2002 model year, cars with trunks have included a lever that glows in the dark, allowing a person to open the trunk from the inside by tugging the handle.

But in the Lexus, the lever snaps off when it is pulled toward the driver's side, Fisher said. It works when the lever is pulled straight down or toward the passenger side.

Consumer Reports showed the problem to engineers from Toyota, who were visiting the magazine for other reasons last week, said Toyota spokesman John Hanson. "They showed us the broken latch and obviously it got our attention," he said.

Toyota took pictures of the latch and now Toyota product quality and design experts in North America and Japan are trying to figure out why the latch broke, Hanson said.

Consumer Reports also notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A NHTSA spokesman said the agency "is aware of the issue and is evaluating available information to determine if additional action is warranted."

Toyota is trying to boost its Lexus brand by appealing to younger buyers interested in sportier cars. Lexus yielded its top spot in the U.S. luxury market last year due to lost sales after the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Earlier this week, a Toyota executive said it faced "high hurdles" to achieving the brand's 500,000 global sales target after sales slumped in China.

(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Tim Dobbyn)


Keywords: LEXUS LATCH/