Since 2002, the trunks of cars have all come with a glow-in-the-dark safety release, which allows a person who has somehow become trapped inside to open it up and escape. The releases are pretty standard and functional across all models, but Consumer Reports' automotive tester Jake Fisher found a serious problem with the one included in the 2013 Lexus ES and GS: It can be broken off by a 4 year-old.

Fisher, who has young two sons, said that his 4 year-old insisted on testing out the trunk release lever (while supervised). While this feature isn't normally a part of a Consumer Reports test, his son's curiosity led to the discovery of the flaw.

"When they have tried this before, the boys would easily find the release lever and promptly emerge triumphant. However, that was not their experience with our 2013 Lexus ES 350 test car," he said. "My 4-year-old'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 then tested out the release on the ES 300h and GS 350. While the release in the ES 300h seemed to work just fine when pulled straight down or to the passenger side of the car, when pulled to the driver's side it snapped right off. The same thing happened in the GS 350.

Consumer Reports spot-checked cars from other brands in its fleet for a similar issue, but couldn't recreate the problem. The publication then notified NHTSA and Toyota of the flaw.

NHTSA has said that it "is aware of the issue and is evaluating available information to determine if additional action is warranted."

A Toyota representative told the publication that "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."


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