Documents from a California auto products lawsuit show that even though Toyota received numerous complaints from US drivers about a possible steering relay rod defect and had been making warranty repairs to fixed cracked and breaking rods for over a decade, the automaker did not issue a recall over the safety issue until 2005. The US recall of nearly a million compact pickups and 4Runner SUVs came 11 months after Toyota issued a similar recall in Japan in 2004 and following assurances from the car manufacturer that a safety recall in this country was unnecessary.
Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which believed
Toyota’s assertions in 2004, wants to know why the automaker waited
until 2005 to recall its vehicles in the US—especially if it had
known for some time that so many people were experiencing problems with
their vehicles’ steering rods. Federal law mandates that car manufacturers
must report any auto defects within five days of discovery.
The steering relay rod serves as a connector between the steering system
and the front wheels. If a rod breaks, the driver may experience loss
of steering control that can prove catastrophic. According to USA Today,
between 1993 and when the US recall was issued in September 2005, Toyota
made at least 153 steering rod repairs to SUVs and pickup trucks. Free
repairs were also made to vehicles with warranties that had expired.
In the California wrongful death lawsuit that has brought the latest Toyota-related
safety issue to the forefront, the family of 18-year-old Michael Levi
Stewart claims that he never received a recall notice until three months
after the tragic 2007 motor vehicle accident. Three other people were
injured in the car crash.
These latest allegations against Toyota come just months after the automaker
agreed to pay a fine of $16.4 million because it delayed recalling 2.3
million autos because of a sticky gas pedal defect that has lead to sudden
unintended acceleration problems. An investigation is also underway to
determine whether Toyota delayed the recall of more than 5 million vehicles
over ill-fitting floor mats that can end up trapping gas pedals. This
defect has been linked to numerous acceleration-related personal injuries
and wrongful deaths.
Toyota fixed steering rods for over a decade before recall, USA Today,
June 14, 2010
Toyota steering recall probed, Tennessean, June 14, 2010
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Toyota Motor Corporation