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Steering problems likely to mean recall

Toyota President Akio Toyoda bows after his press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.  (Associated Press)
Toyota President Akio Toyoda bows after his press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Corolla complaints join list of Toyota troubles

WASHINGTON – Adding to its growing woes, Toyota Motor Corp. said it is considering recalling the popular Corolla because of potential steering problems.

The possible recall was announced at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, where the company executives also said that all future Toyota vehicles would include a brake-override system to provide an extra measure of safety in the event of sudden acceleration.

Toyota has issued about 10 million recall notices worldwide, mostly for floor mats that can entrap the gas pedal and a gas pedal that can stick, which it has blamed for causing unintended acceleration.

Although the Corolla has a different problem, it would add to the company’s deep business and public relations problems, as well as increase concern by U.S. officials about the safety of Toyota vehicles and the responsiveness of company executives to consumer complaints.

Separately, U.S. officials plan to inform the automaker as early as today that they are launching an investigation into steering problems with 2009 and 2010 Corollas amid complaints from some drivers that they were having trouble controlling their vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received about 150 complaints about the vehicle’s steering system. The NHTSA investigation would involve 363,000 Corolla vehicles from the 2009 model year and 136,000 from 2010, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, who could not elaborate because Toyota had not been formally notified of the probe.

In the past, Toyota would have fixed Corollas in a service campaign when the vehicles came into the dealerships for oil changes or other work, said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of auto information company

“But today, not to have a recall raises questions. It would create a perception that you don’t care about your customers or you are putting profits ahead of consumers,” Anwyl said. “It is better to have a recall than to wait for the negative backlash.”