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Toyota issues recall announcement affecting 880,000 vehicles

May 2005-Toyota Motor Corp. said it is recalling about 880,000 sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks worldwide because of a defect that could affect steering. In the United States, 774,856 Toyota SUVs and pickup trucks have been recalled, including the 2001-2004 model years of the Tacoma, the 2001-2002 versions of the 4Runner and the 2002-2004 model years of the Tundra and Sequoia. Toyota's recall announcement also affects 22,000 vehicles in Japan, 22,000 vehicles in Europe, 14,000 vehicles in Australia and 10,800 vehicles throughout the rest of the world. Read More


"Consumer group says four-star rating does not mean greater SUV safety "

June 22, 2005

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced more SUVs and pickup trucks are getting four-star ratings in rollover tests, but Public Citizen consumer group says this does not necessarily mean SUVs are less prone to rollover.

In actuality, according to Public Citizen, the number of fatalities because of rollover crashes has continued to increase. Every year, about 10,000 rollover fatalities are suffered, and the NHTSA announcement fails to explain the better ratings may be partially attributed to a change in testing regime - not because auto manufacturers have designed safer SUVs.

The safety group believes the NHTSA should have instead focused on showing concern regarding dangerous vehicles that have received low ratings. The popular 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trak is a two-wheel-drive version that earned just two stars but was excluded from the list added to the press release, as well as several other 2005 low scoring vehicles, according to Public Citizen.

The NHTSA also left out the fact that at least seven vehicles tipped up during the dynamic test, including the Ford E-150 15-passenger van. Consumers Union's policy does not allow recommendations among vehicles that tip up during the agency's dynamic test. The Chevrolet Equinox received a four-star rating, but the vehicle also tipped up during the test.

During testing for the Chevrolet Tahoe 4x4 pickup, the NHTSA failed to differentiate that the vehicle did not tip up when it had the electronic stability control (ESC), but it did when tested without ESC. Consumers should be privy to this type of information in order to realize the absence of ESC can significantly affect a vehicle's propensity to rollover, according to the group.

Not one of the SUVs earned the highest rating of five stars, including the 2005 models. Because there is no minimum standard for rollover propensity, meaning no floor on how rollover prone a vehicle can be, Public Citizen believes the higher scores on the NHTSA tests is misleading.

Currently, there is a Senate version of the highway bill that would require the NHTSA to set a minimum rollover propensity standard. The Senate bill, which is pending in a House-Senate conference committee, also contains new ejection prevention and roof crush requirements that could greatly reduce the number of fatalities in rollover crashes.

In addition to the omissions the NHTSA made regarding SUV rollover ratings, Public Citizen said there are also serious omissions in the New Car Assessment Program that the General Accountability Office pointed out in an April 2005 report. The NHTSA was recommended in the report to adopt a rollover crashworthiness test.

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