A growing number of complaints over steering problems with Toyota Corolla vehicles has sparked a federal investigation, and may result in yet another Toyota recall. The troubled auto-maker has already recalled millions of vehicles in recent months over defective gas pedals, floor mats and problems with brakes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received about 150 reports from 2009 and 2010 Corolla owners who say they have encountered difficulty steering at high speeds. Last Wednesday, U.S. Department of Transportation officials said that they are planning to open an investigation into the Toyota Corolla steering problems.
The Corolla uses electric-assisted steering, which is a cheaper version of power steering that uses an electric motor to reduce the amount of torque the driver needs to exert on the steering wheel to turn the vehicle. According to federal investigators, Corolla owners have been complaining that they have had times where it suddenly became very difficult to steer the car, as though the system temporarily stopped working.
Toyota officials say that if there is a problem, it is most likely related to the braking system or tires. The company has said that they will recall the vehicle if necessary, but have not yet issued a Toyota Corolla recall.
The Corolla is the second-most popular Toyota model in the United States, with sales of 300,000 vehicles here last year. Only the Toyota Camry sold more. Federal investigators say their investigation could potentially affect 500,000 Toyota Corollas currently on the road.
The spectre of a Toyota Corolla recall comes just before officials from the Japanese automaker are scheduled to appear at a congressional hearing on February 24. The hearing will focus on Toyota acceleration problems linked to problems with gas pedals and floor mats causing vehicles to speed up out of control. The sudden acceleration has resulted in accidents throughout the United States, and at least 34 deaths have been linked to the issue.
In September 2009, a Lexus and Toyota floor mat recall was issued for 3.8 million vehicles that contained certain all-weather floor mats, which Toyota indicated could get stuck under the gas pedals, causing unintended acceleration. In January, Toyota issued another recall for 2.3 million Toyota vehicles due to a mechanical problem that was causing some gas pedals to stick.
U.S. lawmakers say they want to determine how long Toyota knew about the problem before taking action.
The Toyota accelerator pedal recalls have resulted in more than 60 Toyota lawsuits, including over a dozen wrongful death and personal injury claims.
Just this week, a $100 million Toyota wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the company in the 122nd District Court in Galveston, Texas, by the family of Kenneth and Janice Berg. The couple died on February 24, 2009 in Clear Lake City when their 2009 Toyota Camry smashed into a poll. According to the lawsuit, witnesses said it appeared the vehicle suddenly accelerated out of control.