Toyota faces new US probe on Corolla steering

U.S. regulators launched a preliminary investigation into reported steering problems on the Corolla sedan.

Toyota faces new US probe on Corolla steering

U.S. regulators launched a preliminary investigation into reported steering problems on the Corolla sedan on Wednesday as Toyota Motor Corp faced questions from U.S. lawmakers on whether it had ignored red flags on safety before a wave of vehicle recalls.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received more than 150 complaints about possible steering problems in 2009 and 2010 Corolla models, a U.S. government official said.

The agency began reviewing complaints about the Corolla models last week and on Wednesday determined that the evidence warranted opening a preliminary evaluation, according to the official who asked not to be named because the plan has not been announced.

The Corolla is Toyota's second-most popular model in the U.S. market behind the Camry.

Such preliminary investigations are a common step by NHTSA and are often closed before being upgraded to a second-stage investigation or prompting a vehicle recall.

But the move comes at a time when Toyota and U.S. safety regulators are under intense scrutiny for their handling of safety complaints related to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles going back a decade.

In particular, Toyota is being challenged by U.S. lawmakers to answer the criticism that the company's practice of tightly controlling key decisions in Japan had contributed to its deepening problems in the U.S. market and criticism that it has not been forthcoming with safety regulators.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said he would send North America chief Yoshimi Inaba to testify instead of making an appearance himself.

Toyoda, grandson of the 77-year-old automaker's founder, said he believed Inaba was the logical choice to testify.

"I have full confidence in the management of Toyota Motor North America, led by Mr. Inaba, and I believe he is the best placed to testify," Toyoda told reporters at his third news conference in two weeks.

Two congressional panels plan hearings next week to look into Toyota safety issues. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce panel moved its hearing to Tuesday instead of Thursday. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government reform is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday.

The top Democrat and Republican on the oversight panel asked major insurers for information they may have provided to U.S. safety regulators on reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Reuters

Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2010, 11:56
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