According to the Associated Press, Toyota waited 11 months after its 2004
recall in Japan of vehicles with defective steering rods before it recalled
nearly 1 million T100 and Hi Lux pickups and 4Runner SUVs over the same
defect in the US. AP says the automaker waited even after receiving reports
from a number of US drivers that the steering rods in their vehicles were
snapping without warning.
Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening its own investigation into the delay. The NHTSA had just fined Toyota $16.4 million for failing to report within five days of discovering there was a accelerator safety issue that has since then resulted in the recall of millions of vehicles, as well as a number of auto products liability and wrongful death complaints.
After issuing its recall in Japan, Toyota said that it didn’t have sufficient evidence to verify that the problem extended to SUVs and trucks in the US. In a 2004 letter to the NHTSA, Toyota said that the driving conditions in Japan were so different (narrow parking spaces, frequent standing full lock turns, and close quarters maneuvering) from the conditions in the US that it wasn’t necessary to recall any T100 pickup truck and 4Runner SUV (even though the vehicles in both countries have almost the same exact steering components). Toyota also told US regulators that the automaker had only received sporadic reports about steering issues. However, AP says that the car manufacturer had received at least 52 reports from US motorists complaining about the defect even before the recall was issued in Japan. NHTSA says it received 41 complaints from Toyota owners in the US over the steering rod defect prior to the Japan recall.
Steering Rod Defect
A vehicle with a snapped steering rod cannot be controlled by the driver because he/she likely won’t be able to turn the front wheels. The NHTSA says 16 car accidents, seven injuries, and three fatalities have been linked to the steering rod defect.
Update: NHTSA probes delay in Toyota steering relay rod recall, USA Today, May 11, 2010
Toyota waited months to issue ’05 steering recall, Associated Press, May 10, 2010
Toyota to pay $16.4 million fine, recall Lexus SUV, News Daily/Reuters, April 19, 2010
Related Web Resources:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Toyota Motor Corporation
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