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U.S. takes 2nd look at 2005 Toyota recall

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U.S. takes 2nd look at 2005 Toyota recall

Toyota's handling of pickup fix questioned



WASHINGTON -- U.S. auto safety regulators have opened a fresh probe into Toyota's handling of a 2005 recall over faulty steering rods in older pickups, questioning whether the automaker delayed making the fix after issuing recalls overseas.

The move came in response to a request by a California law firm that said the delay led to the death of an 18-year-old Idaho man in 2007, and came the same day that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the company was making progress on safety issues.

The probe involves the 2005 recall of 977,839 Toyota 4Runner, T100 and pickup models built between 1989 and 1998 for steering-relay rods that could crack, causing the trucks' steering to fail.

In alerting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Sept. 6, 2005, Toyota said it had first seen the problem in Japanese models in October 2004, when it issued a recall there. But it contended the problem was limited to Japan because of the "unique operating condition" such as "frequent standing full-lock turns, such as for narrow parking spaces."

Yet over the next 10 months, Toyota told NHTSA, it started a probe into trucks in other countries, including the U.S., before launching the recall nearly a year later. Under federal law, automakers have five days to begin a recall once they decide a safety defect exits.

Sean Kane, a safety advocate who works with product-liability attorneys, said Monday that California attorney John Kristensen found at least 44 complaints about steering rods in Toyota pickups that were made before October 2004, including some injuries. Kristensen represented the family of Levi Stewart, who died in a crash of a Toyota pickup in September 2007. His family received the notice of the steering rod recall three months after his death, and sued Toyota in February 2009.

"With new assurances from Toyota about their efforts to improve safety, I hope for their cooperation in getting to the bottom of what happened," said LaHood.



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"Toyota" should be the new catch-phrase meaning "deny, deny, DENY"

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