Toyota Recalls Cars for Steering Problems

In the face of continuing problems, Toyota is now recalling 412,000 passenger cars, mostly in the Avalon model and in the United States, for steering problems, said The Associated Press (AP). According to Toyota, three accidents have been reported in connection to the defect, to date, said the AP.

Of the total cars involved, 373,000 Avalons are being recalled from the 2000 through 2004 model years due to improper casting of the steering lock bar, said the AP. This is a defect in the vehicle’s steering system that is resulting in cracks developing on its surface, added the AP. In some of the cases, this crack can result in breakage of the lock bar, which can then lead to a crash if the steering wheel locks, said Toyota, reported the AP. Also, 39,000 Lexus luxury model LX 470s for the 2003 to 2007 model years are being recalled due to a steering shaft problem, said the AP, noting that the two problems are different.

Avalon and Lexus owners are being notified next month and are also being asked to bring in their cars to nearby Toyota and Lexus dealers for a free repair. “Our engineers have thoroughly investigated this issue and have identified a robust and durable remedy that will help prevent this condition from affecting drivers in the future,” said Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager of Lexus, quoted the AP.

Meanwhile, 8.5 million vehicles have been recalled globally by Toyota Motor Corp. since October for a growing series of problems such as faulty floor mats, defective gas pedals, and problems with braking software, said the AP. Previously renowned for its quality and service, Toyota was recently fined and agreed to pay a record $16.375 million fine levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for concealing information related to a January recall of 2.3 million vehicles for sticky accelerator pedals. The company also faces more than 200 lawsuits resulting from the sticky accelerator and floor mat recalls.

Just this month, Toyota announced a recall of about 270,000 vehicles, mostly in the Lexus line, involving engine problems, wrote the AP.

And, in addition to the over 200 lawsuits Toyota faces in the U.S. alone over accidents, decreased resale values, and a stock drop, said the AP, we recently wrote that Toyota is facing yet another investigation. This time, a federal grand jury is looking into steering-related defects in its vehicles, and possibly how it handled a 2005 recall.

As we’ve reported previously, the NHTSA is already investigating the 2005 recall, which involved defective steering rods. Toyota waited 11 months to issue a U.S. recall, after it had already done so for trucks in Japan. The recall in Japan took place in October 2004; the US recall, involving 977,839 similar vehicles, took place September 2005. In 2004, Toyota told US regulators the problems were limited to vehicles in Japan. Under US law, carmakers have five days to report safety problems to regulators.

Although it has not yet determined the timing, the NHTSA has reports of three deaths and seven injuries linked to the faulty steering rods on 4Runner SUVs and T100 and Hi Lux compact pickups, which involve 1989 to 1998 models.

According to The New York Times previously, Toyota received two other subpoenas this year: From a grand jury in February for documents related to sudden acceleration and braking and from the Michigan attorney general in March for information on recalls.

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