Toyota Recalls 453,000 Cars for Steering Defects

July 30th, 2010

2004 Toyota Avalon

All you 2000-2004 Avalon owners driving happily into the sunset of your years will soon be notified to bring your cars in to have a steering defect fixed. Since there are 373,000 of you, please don’t descend on your Toyota dealers all at once.

Here is yet another instance of Toyota’s dedication to making things right after putting unsafe cars on the road. Said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s North American chief quality officer: “Toyota is continuing to work diligently to address safety issues wherever they arise and to strengthen our global quality assurance operations….”

Oh yes, and you 39,000 owners of 2003-2007 Lexus LH 470 SUVs who thought you were driving a robust vehicle can also prepare for a recall—for steering problems, too, though a different part is involved. And it is reported that another 41,000 Land Cruiser 100s, on which the Lexus is based, will be recalled.

2009 Toyota CorollaMy heart is not bleeding for this company. The recall is for steering defects: a “steering lock bar,” part of the interlock system in the Avalon, and a snap ring on the steering shaft in the Lexus-Land Cruiser. The company has had to account for steering problems in its other cars—namely, the 2008-2009 Corolla (right), under study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If a recall hits this very popular car, the numbers will go sky-high. The Corolla is reputed to be the world’s best-selling car, with nearly 909,000 sold in 2009.

On June 29, Toyota was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury to produce documents related to broken steering relay rods in unspecified models of its vehicles. As those of you know who have been following this sad history, the company was also subpoenaed in March for failing to file documents related to acceleration and braking problems in the Prius.

It would be interesting to know who makes the steering assemblies and subassemblies for Toyota—and whether the problem lies with them. If so, Toyota would still be guilty of faulty supervision and quality control. And stonewalling an investigation.

Should the NHTSA step up its investigations of Toyota, or have they gone far enough?

—jgoods

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