I love the Lexus LS brand and want to help it, by constructively presenting my complaint about what I, and others, consider to be a Lexus "trunk strut" engineering problem in the 2001 LS 430. In 2001, the completely redesigned Lexus LS 430 had this said about it in "'The Family Car' Web Magazine Road Test" for that model: "The trunk is 33% larger than the previous model (LS 400) due to the fact that the gas tank was moved from the back of the trunk to below the rear seat." Lexus also increased trunk space, as noted in "Lexus LS Generations", with: "4-link hinges (2 gas struts) are used on the trunk door (lid) to provide more cargo room."
For 2007, the completely redesigned LS 460 actually has reduced trunk cargo space from the LS 430 models (2001 to 2006). The 2001 LS 430 brochure says: "Trunk Capacity = 20.2 cubic feet (w/o rear A/C) - 17.5 cubic feet (with rear A/C)". Then, the 2007 LS 460 brochure says: "18.0 cubic feet (509L) - 12.0 cubic feet (339L) (with Rear-Seat Upgrade Package or Executive-Class Seating Package)". Here are TRUNK PHOTOS (courtesy of "The Family Car" Web Magazine) of the LS 400 (trunk space and mechanism for 1990-1994), the LS 430 (for 2004, but same for 2001-2006), and the LS 460 (for 2007).
Why would Lexus go back to the 1990 "retro,swing-arm" style hinge trunk lid mechanism which decreases trunk space capacity (after hitting "Continue Gallery" see "Struts in place of trunk hinges"), on top of an overall 2007 redesign that makes the trunk smaller to begin with? Here is my sincere opinion on this.
After talking with many different Lexus Service Managers, Parts Dept. Managers, Master Mechanics, as well as getting feedback from LS 430 customers to my post on Edmunds Townhall chat room/forum, I have come to the conclusion that all struts or shocks, as they are also called, can wear out over time, but the stronger they are made to begin with, the longer they will last! My 17 year old, 1990 LS 400 "swing-arm" mechanism is still working perfectly. But, my 6 year old, 2001 LS 430 trunk lid "strut" mechanism IS NOT!
My Lexus trunk lid mechanism problem first started around 2002/3 to the best of my recollection. My memory of when I took the car into one of my two dealers is this. I complained about the trunk lid not staying up, and falling down on my head too easily. The service writer told me that all the 2001 LS 430 trunk lids had to be securely pushed all the way to the top of the reach of the struts, or they will not stay up well. He said that all he could do for me (at that time) was replace the struts with the exact same struts that were on my car. I did not see any long term benefit in doing that, so I just "shined it on". It was never put into my car's computer record (I recently found out), because I never insisted upon it (I guess?). It has always appeared to me that any car dealer doesn't really want any complaints to go into computerized records, as those, eventually, may be used for a "recall".
My wife has been hit in the head many times, as I have, by the trunk lid coming down due to moderate winds and just putting groceries in the trunk (on level ground, but it is worse on a small incline). The "under-engineered" (in my opinion) struts have gotten worse over time. I have contacted Lexus's Corporate 800 # and was told/e-mailed "a we can't/won't help you" response. I recently found out from a Lexus Parts Specialist that Lexus changed the part number on my trunk struts (from # ending in "30" to "31") sometime after 2001. Lexus keeps the reasons for these changes a secret even from their dealers, so I could not find out "why", or even "when" for the change. That sure seems convenient for Lexus to not let anyone know the real reason for the part number update/change.
I am asking that Lexus Corporate "Customer Satisfaction" allow my local dealer to put on a set of the new part # (ending in "31") trunk struts at no charge to me (a $469.64 valuation), even though my 2001 has about 77,700 miles on it, and is out of warranty. All 2001 LS 430 owners should be notified, as I'm sure the new part number represents a "quiet" Lexus part "fix", and these struts will last longer than the part # ending in "30" did (even though the change in part #'s may only represent a "new supplier").
The reason for my confidence is that not only have I been told by Lexus Master Mechanics that this was, and is, a fairly common trunk strut replacement problem, but now I have had two responses (so far) on "Edmund's Townhall - 'Car Space' Forum #'s 8056 to 8060" that say: "I have the same problem with my 2001 LS 430 trunk struts. I have called and visited 5 different auto parts stores and the struts are only available through the dealer. The trunk lid has fell on my head numerous times. It is indeed a safety issue and not of Lexus quality. The trunk struts/shocks are labeled as "1FE28 W676". Let me know if you have found any aftermarket alternatives. I do not want to buy new ones from Lexus if they are only going to fail again in a short time.", and "I have a 2002 LS and also experienced the trunk lid falling on my head. About a month ago I had the struts replaced under my extended warranty, so far I have noticed a definite marked improvement. Of course a month is not a long time, so the jury is still out. I don't know if the replacemt struts are "31" or not."
My NHTSA complaint # is 10181946, but the NHTSA web site also has complaint # 10178801 which says: "I HAD OPENED THE TRUNK ON MY LEXUS LS-430 (2001) TO PLACE SOME PERSONAL ITEMS FOR TRANSPORT. I WAS LEANING DOWN WHEN SUDDENLY THE TRUNK LID CAME CRASHING DOWN WITH THE CORNER OF THE TRUNK STRIKING ME IN THE AREA AROUND THE EYE AND THE UPPER CHEEK BONE. THE INJURY RESULTED IN BRUISING AND SWELLING AROUND THE EYE AND HAS RESULTED IN CONTINUING PAIN, SWELLING AND DISCOMFORT IN THE EYE, EAR AND CHEEK BONE. AFTER THE INCIDENT THE TRUNK WAS INSPECTED BY ME AND OTHER COMPANY PERSONNEL AND IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THE HYDRAULIC TRUNK STRUTS NECESSARY FOR THE SAFE OPERATION OF THE TRUNK HAD BOTH FAILED. I HAVE SINCE HAD THE TRUNK STRUTS REPLACED. *JB"
I hope Jim Press, President of Toyota North America, reads this post along with Mr. Tetsuo Hattori (Chief Vehicle Engineering Officer of Toyota since 2004). I also wish Lexus well, and believe that my 1990 LS 400 (1st Year of the Flagship Model) will go up in value over time. Just look at this 1972 Datsun 240Z that sold for $11,556 at a Barrett-Jackson Auction, when this Motormint Die Cast Collectibles web page says it originally sold for $3,526 and: "It Changed the Way the World Looked at Japanese Cars". I think the 1989/90 LS 400 "Changed the Way the World Looked at Luxury Japanese Cars".
2/26/07 UPDATE = I must say that all the people at every Lexus dealership I've ever talked to, and it is many of them in Texas, California, New York, and other states, have always been extremely nice, and as helpful as they possibly could be. I now have one of my two local dealers checking with the "D.O.M." ("District Operations Manager" - I think, and no reference to the "Mafia" title) in Torrance, Ca. to see if the total amount of money I've spent servicing and repairing my 1990 LS 400 (from 1991 to 2003), plus the money spent at that same dealership on my 2001 LS 430 (from 2001 to 2003 - I stopped going to my favorite dealer around the time that my favorite Service Manager was transferred to a Cadillac dealership by the ownership's upper management) makes any difference in a final decision about my UNSAFE TRUNK STRUTS. I say this because I am now about 27,000 miles and over 1 year past my 5 year/50,000 Warranty for those trunk struts. I'm still trying, since I believe I "fell through the cracks" when it came to being notified about the change in trunk strut part number ending in "31" vs. "30". I just found that out on my own by asking a Lexus parts specialist.
2/27/07 UPDATE = I just found out that the Lexus Corporate "District Operations Manager" has turned down my request to "try" (at no charge to me) the replacement trunk lid strut part # ending in "31". I'm dissapointed in this decision by Lexus Corporate, as now there is the possibility that someone will be hurt much worse than my wife and I in having that trunk lid come down unexpectedly (as noted in the first NHTSA complaint: "WHEN SUDDENLY THE TRUNK LID CAME CRASHING DOWN WITH THE CORNER OF THE TRUNK STRIKING ME IN THE AREA AROUND THE EYE AND THE UPPER CHEEK BONE.").
All car manufacturers have to make these kind of decisions based on "Cost vs. Benefit", and recalls can be expensive from a financial and public relations point of view. Actually, in this age of the Internet with "Word of Mouth" spreading faster than ever, it is better to "fess up" than "cover up", if that is indeed the situation. If Lexus would have OK'd my "out of warranty" fix, it may have been looked upon by the NHTSA as an "admittance of guilt" (vs. great customer service), which could have triggered a global recall. For this reason, my expectations were never real high in getting those replacement struts. But, now I don't know (for 100% sure) if the "31's" represent a "beefed up" strut or not. Therefore, I have decided to NOT BUY those replacement struts out of fear that the part number update was due ONLY to a new supplier providing the same engineering specifications for that strut.
In fairness to Lexus, I have to say that I was told that their mechanics believe one reason (I say "additional reason") for the 2007 LS 460 to go back to the "Retro 1990" style trunk mechanism is due to their new option called "Power Rear Trunk Open/Close (LS 460 L - only with "Executive Seating Pkg - $94,217 & LS 460 - only with "Luxury Pkg - $71,372)". The power mechanism used can only be operated with the "swing-arm" style hinge.
At those prices, I can see why Hyundai's Azera, fully loaded MSRP at $32,685 (but not with as many and the same options as the LS 460) is attractive to some buyers in light of Hyundai's 2006 quality improvements (J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study - Problems per 100 Vehicles). Hyundai came in third after Lexus, but before Toyota! Don't get me wrong, though, the LS 460 is a nicer car. It's just that Lexus originally positioned their marketing and pricing as a "poor man's" quality, luxury car, in my opinion.
See Has Lexus Read the "Cluetrain Manifesto"? UPDATE.
See NHTSA LS 430 Trunk Strut Investigation UPDATE.