The NHTSA is investigating reports that Toyota delayed a safety recall of pickup trucks and 4Runner SUVs for nearly one year in the United States. Toyota recalled 1989 to 1998 pick up trucks and SUVs in the Japanese market in 2004, but did not initiate the same recall in the United States until September of 2005. The recall centered around steering rod assemblies, which could break if repeatedly stressed, leaving a driver with no ability to steer the vehicle. Toyota claimed that U.S. driving conditions were different than those in Japan, so steering rod failure on U.S. vehicles was unlikely. Toyota also claimed that no complaints were received from U.S. customers until after the 2005 recall was initiated.
NHTSA officials have received evidence that over 40 complaints from U.S. drivers were filed in 2004, prior to the start of the Japanese recall. If these claims can be substantiated, the NHTSA will likely hit Toyota with a second fine of $16.4 million, the highest amount allowed by law.