Toyota Corolla Steering Complaints Prompt NHTSA Investigation

U.S. regulators have decided to launch a formal investigation of the Toyota Corolla, model year 2009-2010. According to The Washington Post, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received more than 150 complaints about the power steering on the Corolla.

The Corolla is just the latest Toyota vehicle to cause safety concerns. The automaker has already recalled nearly 8 million vehicles worldwide since September 2009 for issues involving unintended acceleration and faulty brakes. The recalls have seriously injured Toyota’s long-standing reputation for quality and reliability.

The Corolla is Toyota’s best-selling car, with around 1.3 million models sold around the world last year. It was the fifth-best-selling vehicle in the U.S. in 2009 and the world’s top-seller.

The NHTSA investigation will cover about 500,000 Corollas. In the complaints the agency has received, drivers have reported feeling as though they were losing control over the steering.

It is not yet known what might be causing the alleged Corolla problems, but possibilities include the braking system and tires.

Yesterday, we reported that Toyota was considering a recall of the Corolla over the steering complaints. At a news conference, Shinichi Sasaki, who oversees quality at Toyota Motor Corp., said that a recall would be issued if Toyota determined that the problem was putting drivers at risk.

Also at yesterday’s news conference, Toyota announced it had come up with a plan that it hopes will prevent unintended acceleration incidents on future vehicles. According to The Washington Post, a brake-override system that cuts engine power when the accelerator and brake pedals are depressed at the same time will be added to all future Toyota vehicles.

During the news conference, Toyota president Akido Toyoda also tried to ease concerns that unintended acceleration is being caused by an electronic, not mechanical, problem, the Post said. Toyoda insisted that the automaker had “conducted rigorous testing under extremes of electromagnetic interference, vibration and other adverse conditions to conclusively verify that the system cannot accidentally induce acceleration.” He also said that Toyota had brought in an outside firm to verify its test results.

Finally, Toyoda said he would not accept an invitation from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to testify at a hearing on Toyota safety problems on February 24. According to The Washington Post, Toyoda is planning to visit the U.S. in March, but will only visit dealerships.

As we reported last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has threatened to subpoena Toyoda to testify before the committee.

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