Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s new Lexus ES and GS sedans have emergency trunk release handles that break too easily and risk trapping someone in the cargo space of the luxury cars, according to Consumer Reports magazine.
The flaw was found by accident during an evaluation of 2013 models of the two cars, the nonprofit publication said in a statement. The 4-year-old son of Jake Fisher, director of vehicle testing for Yonkers, New York-based Consumer Reports, got into the ES 350’s trunk to try the interior release, Fisher said.
The boy’s “small hands snapped off the lever that opens the lid. He was not able to escape from the trunk until I opened it from the outside,” Fisher said in the statement. Tests of release handles in 2013 ES hybrid and GS 350 sedans showed they too could snap if “pulled toward the driver’s side,” he said.
The issue follows Toyota’s global recall of 7.4 million vehicles this week, the most ever, to fix faulty power-window switches. The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker has been working to overhaul its reputation for safety and quality after repairing millions of autos worldwide in 2009 and 2010 for floor-mat and gas-pedal defects linked to unintended acceleration.
Consumer Reports said it notified both Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the matter.
Toyota is investigating the “durability and ergonomics of the emergency trunk release lever,” said John Hanson, a spokesman for the company’s U.S. unit. “This is an active investigation,” he said, without elaborating.
Starting in the 2002 model year “all cars with trunks have included a trunk-entrapment safety release that glows in the dark and allows a person to open the trunk lid from inside,” Fisher said in the statement. “This simple feature helps mitigate a rare, but potentially tragic situation.”
Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California. The company’s American depositary receipts fell 0.2 percent to $74.67 at the close in New York. They have gained 13 percent this year.
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