October 12, 2012
Faulty Trunk Safety Latches Found In Lexus Vehicles
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Ever since 2002, all automobiles for sale in the States have been required to have a glow-in-the-dark safety latch installed in trunk. The idea behind this feature is that anyone who might become accidentally trapped in the trunk (particularly children) would find the glow of the latch, pull it, and be instantly set free from their tiny trunk cells. While the thought of anyone being trapped in a trunk is a very unnerving one, it´s a situation many never have to worry about.
As it turns out, this emergency trunk latch isn´t something CR normally covers in their automobile testing. When auto tester Jake Fisher drove one of these new Lexus ES 350 models home for testing, his 2 sons decided to lend a hand. According to Fisher, they particularly enjoy testing out the trunk emergency latch on any new car, just as most boys would.
Fisher says he often lets his sons try the emergency latch (while he stands close by, key in hand, of course) when he brings these test vehicles home. When his 4-year old climbed into the trunk to test the latch on the new Lexus ES, however, the latch broke free under his tiny hand. Fisher let his son free from the trunk from the outside.
According to a video posted on ConsumerReports.com, this latch is meant to be tugged in one way: Towards the passenger side. Fisher´s 4-year old son (and it was duplicated later) had pulled in the wrong way, causing the little piece of plastic to break. In fact, Fisher even says, “the plastic surround acts as a fulcrum and snaps the emergency release handle off easily, preventing the trunk from opening.”
This style of emergency latch found in the trunk of the ES is also used in the GS and, according to Fisher´s tests, both failed in the same way. Toyota confirmed to CR that the same style of latch is used in the IS line as well, though the auto reviewers were unable to test this latch as they only have the 2 Lexus models in their garage.
After noting the flaw and potential danger, Consumer Reports took their findings both to Toyota (Lexus´ parent company) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The government agency told CR it "is aware of the issue and is evaluating available information to determine if additional action is warranted."
After receiving this report from CR, A representative for Toyota reached out to the review magazine and said they are actively researching this issue.
"Upon hearing the information from Consumer Reports, we immediately began investigating the durability and ergonomics of the emergency trunk release lever. This is an active investigation and we cannot provide more details at this time."