By on April 16, 2010

Well, apparently, someone at Toyota shouted “yatta” (I found it) too early when they said that the GX 460 troubles will be solved with a simple reflash. As Robert Walter put it so succinctly: “Even God’s Own Motor Company couldn’t approve and roll-out a minor change from one day to the next …” A day later, Toyota agrees with Robert. The Nikkei [sub] has the news that production of the Lexus GX 460 will be halted through the end of the month. And the troubles are just beginning …

Toyota isl suspending production of the Lexus GX 460 at its plant in Tahara, Aichi Prefecture, until April 28 after Consumer Reports declared the SUV as dangerous.

According to The Nikkei, “the automaker has already conducted tests under the conditions identified by the U.S. magazine and is likely to work on corrective measures to modify the electronic stability control system to ensure greater safety.” Toyota isn’t the only party that will perform tests.

The NHTSA will run safety tests on a new Lexus SUV and will “take action if the Toyota vehicle does not meet government standards,” NHTSA chief David Strickland told Reuters.

“My compliance staff is going to take a look at several of these vehicles including the test vehicle that was used at Consumer Reports,” Strickland said. According to U.S. rules, compliance with U.S. safety standards is largely a matter of self-certification. However, the NHTSA can pull production models and check whether they comply with pertinent standards. If they are found not in compliance: No sale, and serious trouble.

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29 Comments on “Lexus GX 460 Production Halted, NHTSA Runs Compliance Tests...”

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Everytime I hear “yatta” I think of that utter wank stain Hiro Nakamura (and the tosspot actor who plays him) from that God-awful show “Heroes”.

    • 0 avatar

      Now, now, Ms. Corrigan. Wank stain? Toss pot?

    • 0 avatar

      Hayden Panitierre is reason enough to watch Heroes.

    • 0 avatar
      The Guvna

      Well, I’m not entirely sure who the hell that is, but I could have sworn on first glance that the talking head in the above screen grab was James Lipton. That brought about a whole series of secondary questions, like “why is the AP seeking the opinion of the bloke who hosted ‘Inside The Actors Studio’? Then again, hell, why not? He could probably conjure up some more interesting answers than the stiffs they regularly trot out for that purpose”.

  • avatar

    All I have to say is Itai!

  • avatar

    Well the first thing is don’t make more of the product that has the problem. (suspend production). Not a large number – they made 10 or 20 a day?
    The solution to the problem may or may not be a tweak to the vehicle stability program. That has yet to be determined. If the solution requires some new mechanicals, why make more units that will have to be reworked? If it is a tweak to the stability program, then flashing can be done.

    • 0 avatar

      Even if the problem can the solved with a reflash, sales are currently suspended so why make any more of the vehicles. And once the solution has been determined, the dust will need to settle on the whole situation before sales projections and production numbers can be re-evaluated.

  • avatar

    How many times does self-regulation need to fail before someone finally clues in and realizes that letting the foxes guard the chickenhouse gate is not a good idea?

    First we have European carbon and fuel-economy “self-certifications” turn out to be, big surprise, grossly optimistic. Now at least one (and probably a lot more) manufacturers are running their own roll-safety tests.

    Oh, yes, “the market doth provide” again.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do we need NHTSA when we have CR? Do you realize the ubiquitous UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) is a private organization? Not only do we have CR, we have the IIHS, which is the automotive equivalent of UL. Both do a better job than NHTSA without taking a dime of taxpayer money.

      What we need is information, not regulation. Most SUV buyers will avoid the vehicle when CR says “Do not buy” But why take it away from the minority of buyers who thinks that a drift-happy SUV is a feature, not a bug? To each his own. Live and let live.

    • 0 avatar

      Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves here? It hasn’t even been alleged that the vehicle fails to comply with the applicable government-imposed safety standards. And already the manufacturer has voluntarily halted sales, based on a warning from a private organization, as KitaIkki points out. But somehow this is evidence that more regulation is needed?

      Furthermore, this appears to be the “failure” of the ESC system to deal with a particular scenario. (I use the term “failure” loosely because it’s impossible to design such a device that will insulate the driver of a 300 HP, 5300 lb. vehicle from the realities of the laws of physics.) Never mind that these systems barely existed just 10 years ago, but now their inability to save ham-fisted drivers from themselves in every conceivable situation is cause for greater regulation?

      While ESC systems can’t perform miracles, they tend to make vehicles safer. It’s a good thing that regulators mandated the creation of ESC systems, then, because the free market would never have come up with the idea. Oh wait…

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      The car didn’t fail the objective NHTSA roll safety test (Fishhook) – what happened was its behavior as subjectively assessed by experienced drivers in a different maneuver (throttle off in turn) was unnacceptable to them.

      That is a whole different ballgame. There is no mandated test for this, there are no objective limits. If you want to pay for the tests to be developed, and then pay for the cars to be developed to meet those tests, then you are welcome to start a political campaign to do so. Or contact Ralphy-boy, he hasn’t been in the headlines lately and probably needs a new cause. Maybe you could write a book and call it “Feels a bit unsafe at limit handling in some circumstances but it hasn’t hurt anybody yet”.

      Incidentally CR needs a bit of a spanking for their terminology on this, their blog says “When pushed to its limits on our track’s handling course, the rear of the GX we bought slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control. ” . That implies a yaw of ‘almost’ 90 degrees to me, yet quite clearly in the video (and for good fundamental physical reasons) the maximum yaw is less than 40 degrees as you can see by the front wheel angle.

      Lift off oversteer is one of the most difficult tests to perform reliably. It can also be worse somewhere between lightly laden and fully laden, which are the typical test conditions. So CR may not have been testing what toyota did. Or maybe they have different limits of acceptability. By the way I’m not saying that is a good outcome, but it beats what a typical RWD car without ESC would do if the driver froze in those circumstances.

  • avatar

    For starters, we don’t *know” for a fact that NHTSA standards haven’t been met. We *know* that the SUV gets sideways, Consumer Reports hypothesizes a situation where the vehicle hits a curb and rolls. Are Consumer Reports hypothetical situations NHTSA standards? I don’t think so.

    The Soviet Union (1922-1991) tried the total regulation of everything. It didn’t work out so well. They got fabulous automobiles during their control.

    • 0 avatar

      SUV is to handling as pig is to flying.

      What’s the big damn deal?

      Want to drive an SUV or light truck safely?

      1) observe 85th percentile speed of drivers of mid-sized sedans
      2) subtract 10mph
      3) drive that speed
      4) keep your hands off the cell phone, nav screen inputs, double half-caf cappucino, etc

    • 0 avatar

      Saying that anybody for sensible government regulation wants to imitate the Soviet Union is like saying everybody who goes to church wants to impose a theocracy. Quit burning straw.

  • avatar

    Not that I would buy one of these gunboats anyway but what kind of handling do you expect from something this size and weight. I remember thinking my 73 BelAir was clumsy handling and a big guzzler but this Lexus makes it look like a sports car. I never thought cars and trucks would get so big and stupid again in my life.
    I scrapped the 73 Belair and bought a new 87 Honda CRX and was sold forever on small economical cars that performed well. Even through the years when families bought not-so-minivans I stayed with small cars and reaped the rewards of low operating costs and reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not a question of how SUV’s are expected to handle, it’s that this vehicle has more dangerous characteristcs that other vehicles in this class, including the 4Runner which this is based on.

  • avatar

    Is yatta Japanese for D’oh?

  • avatar

    I don’t know, from the video I see some pretty nice drifting, that’s all.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Looks like the vehicle needs more roll-stiffness in the front suspension , to induce a bit more understeer. Obviously a thicker anti-roll bar at the front will hinder the off-road performance , but I doubt many owners take these things off-road anyway. An electronic stability control is just like a sticking plaster , something to cover-up a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      I agree totally. The vehicle should have the proper handling balance designed into the suspension calibration. Anything you do with the stability control is only covering up the issue.

  • avatar

    Is this model sold in Europe or somewhere where the E.U. type-approval style of car regulation is used instead of the American self-certification way of doing it? If so, I wonder what difference (if any) there might be in the handling performance of type-approved vs. self-certified GX460s.

    (And I can’t seem to stop myself wondering whether NHTSA will issue a press release stating something like “although we were initially concerned that the GX 460’s handling performance appeared to be somewhat black-dot, NHTSA testing revealed that a GX 460 driven according to standard test conditions exhibit handling performance no worse than white-dot-with-black-lower-half. Moreover, Toyota’s changes to the suspension and stability control system calibration have improved the handling performance to white-dot-with-black-border. This recalibration is the prescribed course of action for a recall campaign voluntarily initiated by Toyota, and NHTSA is fully red-dot-with-white-spot-in-the-middle with Toyota’s response to this situation.”)

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      There aren’t major regulatory standards worldwide for vehicle handling prowess. Not in EU, not in North America.

      In the EU, there is a particular magazine that privately conducts their own tests – among them the infamous “elk test”, a quick double lane change that caused the first-generation Mercedes A-class to roll over and caused Mercedes to rework the suspension on that car, and this happened many years ago … They have another test that assesses lift-throttle oversteer, although it’s different from the Consumer Reports test. It has become rather normal for European cars to be designed to do as well as possible on these tests. But, it’s a private organization and has nothing to do with the type-approval.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure if its the same magazine that slighted the Dacia Logan, but that issue cropped up there as well.

    The limitation with private third party testing is the cost and ability of such parties to test everything… but apparently, Consumer Reports has the ability to do real world testing of absolutely everything on the road today… which the NHTSA doesn’t do… so they do serve a purpose…

    That said… I can’t see what government regulation the GX could possibly fail for having tardy ESC… as Brian states… NOBODY certifies handling. What’s a pass? No more than 45 degrees of drift when you lose rear grip? What coefficient of friction is standard for the road to be used? Ice? Snow? Standing water? What level of standing water? What entry speed? Corner speed?

    Consumer Reports test, from the video, appears to be a fairly high speed decreasing radius corner… a situation where I’d expect a lot of vehicles to start sliding sideways unless they’re designed to understeer into the weeds. Should manufacturers design vehicles solely to take such a corner and such a line without considering that designing ESC for that specific corner might actually make the vehicle understeer into the weeds? Are SUVs now required to come on 20 inch rims with 335 series tires, just in case?

  • avatar

    In 1998 I bought a new Toyota 4Runner manual. Lovely vehicle save for its devastating safety flaw. When braking on a surface with a mild pothole (truly mild) or other minimal deformation in the road surface, the ABS system could malfunction. The following happened to me three times in that vehicle: I braked on a paved but SLIGHTY imperfect surface; the ABS activated inappropriately resulting in the brakes and brake pedal chattering with almost no brake force being applied to the four wheels. I stepped on and off the brake pedal repeatedly hoping for deceleration but this did not happen. With, at most, 10% of maximum brake force being applied while my foot was pressed on the brake pedal with maximum force, my Toyota 4Runner careened towards full impact THREE TIMES. Only deft steering saved me from three potentially devastating accidents.

    I brought the vehicle into the local Toyota dealership to diagnose and fix this problem. Their response: the 4Runner is operating normally. No problems were identified or fixed.

    I traded in this fundamentally flawed vehicle for something safe. At the time I thought, “what a bummer. I’m probably the only person with an unreliable Toyota vehicle in the world. My bad luck. I had no obvious recourse and received no sympathy from any automotive enthusiast or authority.

    As fate would have it, I was not alone. Others experienced Toyota’s early ABS system safety flaws in those days, as I have read. Now the Toyota “phuck you and die” demon continues to rear its ugly head. And now I say to you Toyota, “phuck you and die” for the horrors, damages, fears and rip-offs you are putting your customers through. As a consumer who bought one of your pieces of crap, Toyota, I know you deserve this shame and defamation.

    • 0 avatar

      My friend, if your ABS engages, as indicated by the racket it makes, you keep your foot on the brake, and let the ABS do its thing. “Pumping” the ABS defeats its purpose.

      You are not alone. Early research conducted at VW while I was there indicated that people were freaked out by the sensory feedback of the ABS and took their foot off the brake.

    • 0 avatar

      As Bertel said, it’s doing it’s job, as programmed.

      Though we would all like to think we are better than a computer, fact is, that sometimes we aren’t. A human can’t modulate the brakes 1/10th as quickly (or as well) as ABS can.

      Stomp that pedal and let the tech work for you.

  • avatar

    The problem with ABS (as described by zznalg), is that if it is engaged by a defect in the road surface under light braking, you ARE COMMITED to perform a hard stop. Now if traffic is behind you, you may not want to do that, so you let up on the pedal and reapply the brakes; suddenly you have a “not enough braking” scenario while the ABS is “resetting”. The driver knows exactly what he/she wants to do, it’s the stupid computer that says: “Let me think about this while you shit your pants.”

  • avatar

    Thanks Bertel but, the 4Runner was not the first ABS equipped vehicle I had owned. I knew exactly how ABS worked and applied full and sustained pressure on the brake pedal. When after several seconds with virtually no braking power on a dry clean pavement and careening towards an intersection, I tried pumping. But, that did not help. I had hoped the pumping might somehow “awaken” the braking system.

    But no, this was not one of those cases where the driver simply did not let ABS do it’s job.

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