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Some Toyotas cut from Consumer Reports picks

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Toyota usually leads the pack in Consumer Reports magazine's annual list of Top Pick cars. In fact, last year, half the Top Picks were Toyota products.

This year, though, two of the four Toyota products that would have made the list were dropped because of a "stop sale" order related to a recall.

But for a recall and "stop sale" order, the Toyota Rav4 would have been Consumer Reports' Top Pick among small SUVs.

The Toyota Rav4, which would have been the Top Pick among small SUVs, and the Highlander, the top scoring vehicle among "family SUVs," had their Consumer Reports recommendations temporarily suspended, along with six other Toyota cars, after they were recalled and sales of the vehicles ordered stopped in late January.

The Subaru Forester and the Chevrolet Traverse were name "Top Picks" in those categories, instead.

Only vehicles that earn a Consumer Reports recommendation can be named a "Top Pick." Ordinarily, a recommendation requires good safety and dependability ratings as well as good scores in the magazine's performance testing. "Top Picks" are the recommended vehicles in each of 10 categories with the highest performance test scores.

Consumer Reports doesn't usually suspend a vehicles' recommendation just because of a recall. In fact, one of the two Toyotas that's still on the Top Picks list, the 2010 Prius, was the subject of a recent recall involving brake problems.

But in the case of the Rav4 and Highlander, the vehicles were recalled before Toyota engineers figured out how to fix the problem, a gas pedal that could, over time, begin to stick. So Toyota put a temporary "stop sale" order in place while figuring out how to fix the cars.

"Although incidents of sudden acceleration are rare, we are taking this action because the vehicles have been identified as potentially unsafe without a fix yet being available to consumers, and in general our position is that you shouldn't compromise on safety," Jim Guest, president of Consumer Reports' publisher, Consumers' Union, said in a statement on Jan. 29, when the suspension was announced.

On Feb. 1, Toyota engineers announced a fix for the problem. Dealerships began fixing both customers' cars and cars on dealership sales floors a short time after that. But there was never any specific date on which Toyota removed the "stop sale" order. Instead, dealers were allowed to sell any of the affected vehicles once the gas pedal on the given car had been repaired.

Up to now, Consumer Reports has still not restored the recommendations on those eight models, however.

"We're just waiting to see the dust settle a little bit," said David Champion, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

The recommendations could be restored as early as next week, he said, but that will be too late to make the Top Picks list, which had to be set before the magazine's April issue went to press. To top of page

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