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Toyota Subpoenaed on Steering Flaws

A federal grand jury in New York has subpoenaed Toyota , seeking information on steering-related defects in its vehicles and possibly widening an investigation into the automaker’s handling of a 2005 recall.

The lawyers at Gresham, P.C. have filed a national class action against Toyota related to the recall of the 2010 Toyota Prius for its defective braking system. Contact GRESHAM pc today for a free consultation. In a short filing Tuesday with the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Toyota said the subpoena, received by subsidiaries in the United States on June 29, had demanded documents about steering relay rod defects in the company’s cars.

Toyota intended to “cooperate earnestly” with investigations, the filing said. Toyota had already received two subpoenas this year, one from a grand jury in February for documents related to sudden acceleration and braking, and one from the Michigan attorney general in March for information on recalls.

It was not immediately clear what defects — or which models or production years — the latest subpoena concerned. Ririko Takeuchi, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for Toyota, said the automaker was still clarifying details of the subpoena.

Earlier this year, U. S. regulators said they were investigating a 2005 Toyota recall — for a steering-related problem in vehicles including 4Runners — in connection with a possible breach of rules for alerting the authorities about flaws.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said in May that it was investigating the timing of the September 2005 recall for steering relay rod defects after an October 2004 recall in Japan for the same flaw. Under U.S. law, carmakers have five days to report safety problems to regulators.

In 2004, Toyota told regulators that the defect was isolated to vehicles in Japan, and the company had not received reports of similar problems in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But in late 2005, Toyota informed the agency the steering relay rod defect was present in models sold in the United States, and the company conducted a recall of about 977,000 vehicles.

The automaker, based in Toyota City, Japan, has already faced a criminal investigation in Japan over its handling of faulty steering relay rods.

Investigators in Japan have charged that Toyota engineers discovered in 1996 that crucial steering rods could fracture in the 4Runner, sold as the Hilux Surf in Japan, and started installing a stronger version on new models later that year.

But it took Toyota eight years to start recalling the vehicles built before 1996, after a 2004 accident involving an out-of-control Hilux Surf in Japan prompted a police investigation. Though no Toyota officials were charged, the automaker received a rebuke from the Japanese government and was ordered to overhaul its recall system.

The latest grand jury subpoena comes as Toyota continues an internal investigation into complaints over sticking accelerator pedals and floor mats that interfere with the pedals.

Since November, Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to resolve problems with pedals that stick or get caught under floor mats. In issuing the recalls, Toyota acknowledged the problems, but said it had not conducted a thorough review of the complaints.

However, an internal investigation of about 2,000 vehicles reported to experience sudden acceleration found evidence that accelerator pedals and floor mats did cause some of the incidents, the automaker said last week.

The U.S. government has ordered Toyota to pay a record $16.4 million fine for waiting too long to initiate a recall after learning that its accelerator pedals were defective. Toyota has acknowledged that it received complaints from customers in Europe about sticking accelerator pedals as early as December 2008.

The lawyers at GRESHAM pc have filed a national class action against Toyota related to the recall of the 2010 Toyota Prius for its defective braking system. Contact GRESHAM pc today for a free consultation.