NHTSA Investigate Whether Toyota Delayed Notifying Safety Officials of Steering Relay Rod Defect

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating whether or not Toyota Motor Corp. notified federal safety officials of a steering relay rod defect affecting some of its vehicles within five days of discovering the safety issue or whether, as the Associated Press is reporting, the automaker knew there were problems but waited to tell federal safety officials and issue a recall. It was just last month that NHTSA had fined Toyota $16.5 million for not notifying federal regulators within 5 days of discovering the sticky accelerator problem and for waiting so long to recall millions of vehicles.

Steering Relay Rod Defect

In 2004, Toyota had recalled pickup trucks and SUVs in Japan but did not issue its recall of all most one million 4Runner sport utility vehicles, Hi Lux and T100 pickup trucks in the US until eleven months later. At the time, the automaker had told NHTSA that the steering relay rod defect did not affect vehicles in the US because the road conditions are different in this country.

However, AP, which conducted an investigation into the matter, found that even before the recall in Japan, Toyota had received at least 52 reports from people in the US who said that their steering rods had snapped. Also, documents from the automaker show that prior to the 2004 recall, it had received 35 steering rod relay-related complaints through its customer service department, 13 warranty claims through dealers, and four formal complaints through its legal department. Now, NHTSA says it has linked seven injuries, three deaths, and 16 car crashes to the steering relay rod defect.

Toyota’s reputation for making safe and reliable cars has taken an enormous hit in the wake of its recalls of millions of vehicles over different auto defects and the auto products liability and wrongful death cases that have followed. Today, Consumer Reports said that the automaker’s safety recall crisis has caused its customer loyalty rating to slip. It was the magazine’s “Don’t Buy” recommendation that car shoppers stay away from the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV because it posed a rollover risk that prompted Toyota to recall more vehicles. In the wake of software updates made by the automaker to fix the problem, Consumer Reports has lifted its “Don’t Buy” warning.

Consumer Reports survey shows Toyota loyalty is slipping in the US, EGM CarTech, May 13, 2010
Toyota waited months to issue ’05 steering recall, Associated Press, May 10, 2010
NHTSA Opens Investigation into Timeliness of 2005 Toyota Steering Relay Rod Recall, NHTSA, May 10, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Toyota Motor Corporation

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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