Problems with steering and water pumps have led to a Toyota recall of 2.77 million vehicles, including the Prius hybrid and Corolla vehicles. The recall comes a month after the auto maker issued the largest auto recall in years and as the company reached a settlement over millions of other vehicles recalled in 2010 for sudden acceleration problems.
The Toyota Prius recall, announced earlier this week, affects about 670,000 Prius vehicles sold in the U.S. that may have problems with the steering intermediate extension shafts and 350,000 of the same vehicles also need to have electric water pumps replaced. The company is expected to soon announce an additional 2 million Prius and Corolla vehicles that have the same defects.
Toyota blames the steering recall on insufficient hardness treatment of the extension shafts. This can cause the lines that connect the extension shaft to the steering box to deform.
The electric water pumps in some of the vehicles may also stop working due to an unrelated problem that will lead to warning lights activating on the instrument panel. In some cases the electric power supply circuit fuse may open, which would deactivate the hybrid system.
The recall affects model year 2004-2009 Prius vehicles manufactured between August 5, 2003, and March 30, 2009. The details on the expected expansion of the recall to include more Prius and Corolla vehicles have not yet been released. Affected owners will be notified next month and will be able to take the vehicles to a Toyota dealer for free repairs.
Sudden Acceleration Settlement Reached with Shareholders
The recall comes shortly after Toyota agreed to pay $25.5 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over problems with Toyota vehicles accelerating out of control.
Shareholders sued the company after it recalled millions of vehicles starting in September 2009, amid reports of cases where drivers had their vehicles accelerate out of control. Shareholders accused the company of keeping the information underwraps, artificially inflating the value of its vehicles.
Sudden acceleration problems with Toyota vehicles led to the recall of millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 and early 2010. Those Toyota recalls were issued in waves, starting with 3.8 million vehicles recalled for floor mat problems in September 2009, followed by other recalls that eventually affected a total of more than 13 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
In December, 2011 the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Toyota was being fined $32.4 million following two federal investigations into how it handled unintended acceleration recalls and steering rod defects. Government investigators say the company stalled on the recalls and failed to notify federal safety officials about the problems in a timely manner. The fines are the maximum allowed by law.
Hundreds of Toyota personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been centralized and consolidated under Judge James V. Selna for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Santa Ana as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). All of the lawsuits contain allegations that drivers or passengers experienced an injury or death after their Toyota vehicles accelerated unexpectedly out of control. The first trial is not expected to begin until early 2013.