The 2010 Lexus HS 250h has been recalled due to an issue with how its fuel tank responds when involved in a collision. While it might seem odd to see a headline regarding Lexus' first ever luxury hybrid car containing the words 'fuel leak,' the problem itself is quite serious. This gasoline / electric car has demonstrated a distinct tendency to leak fuel if hit from the rear at speeds above 50 miles per hour.
The recall affects 17,000 examples of the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, which has been slow-selling despite being released to great fanfare from Toyota's premium brand. Thankfully, the issue was discovered not as the result of any gruesome fires involving injury to Lexus customers, but rather as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's annual testing program that is designed to ensure that vehicles marketed in the United States are in compliance with all federal regulations. The specific test that caught out the 2010 Lexus HS 250h involved a simulation of a rear collision between two automobiles where a deformable barrier is projected into the rear of the vehicle at highway speeds. The car was then slowly rotated 90 degrees to verify how much fluid leakage resulted from the hard impact. The amount of fuel escaping the compact car's tank was deemed to be in excess of what could be considered safe at an accident scene.
There is no doubt that it is embarrassing for Lexus and in particular Toyota to have the much vaunted hybrid electric system installed in the Lexus HS 250h associated with an issue as anti-ecological as fuel spillage. For its part, Lexus claims to have run the exact same testing prior to putting the HS 250h on sale, with no instances of the leaking that the NHTSA discovered having been detected. Lexus has attempted to duplicate the NHTSA's testing in order to verify whether its own engineers can observe the same problem, but so far it has been unable to replicate the federal Administration's results.
This latest recall is the second safety issue for Lexus so far in 2010 where external testing has revealed design flaws in a vehicle that had already been vetted by the automaker's rigorous quality assurance process. Earlier this year the Lexus GX SUV was the subject of intense public scrutiny as the result of a rollover risk discovered during testing by a prominent automotive publication. After initially claiming to be unable to repeat the magazine's results - similar to what is currently happening with the HS 250h - Lexus eventually found the problem and issued a recall. In the most recent case, the company has decided to go ahead with a recall immediately upon notification of the leakage problem, in an effort to head off any further negative publicity regarding the safety of its automobiles.