If you own a car from the last 10 years, you've probably noticed a glow-in-the-dark trunk release on the inside of the trunk. That's to help anyone who happens to find themselves inside the trunk escape from it. It's been a federal requirement for all cars in the U.S. since Sept. 1, 2001, following a 1998 summer where 11 children died from inadvertent trunk entrapment. Since its implementation, no children have died in the trunk of a car that has the release.
Consumer Reports noted the release inside their 2013 Lexus ES and GS sedans could snap off, however. One editor's 4-year-old son wanted to test (under supervision) the emergency release, which snapped off. The publication found that in the ES 350, ES 300h and GS 350 sedans, the release lever could break if you pulled it toward the driver's side of the car. Lexus parent, Toyota, told Consumer Reports that the Lexus IS has a similar release design. Consumer Reports spot-tested other test cars in its fleet and found no such issues.
Toyota has launched an “active investigation" into the interior trunk release, spokesman John Hanson told Bloomberg News. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, meanwhile, told Consumer Reports it's "aware of the issue and is evaluating available information to determine if additional action is warranted."
Reinforcing the handle or redesigning the plastic housing – which places pressure on the handle, if tugged toward one side, to snap it in two – should be an easy fix, but it comes at a bad time for an automaker that just issued one of the largest recalls in history.