Lexus recalls LS models for steering problems

Product RecallsVehiclesToyota RecallsCar TiresJapanCompanies and CorporationsAutomotive Equipment

TOKYO (AP) - Toyota said Wednesday that it will recall a line ofluxury Lexus sedans in the United States and Japan to fix acomputerized steering problem.

The recalls will affect 4,500 Lexus "LS" vehicles in Japan andthe 3,800 2010 "LS" models that Toyota has sold in the UnitedStates. The line is Toyota's top-priced luxury sedan brand, andincludes the "LS 600h" hybrid.

The world's largest automaker, battered by a series ofhigh-profile safety recalls in recent months, said consumers havecomplained of steering wheels that came off-center during certaindriving maneuvers, out of alignment with the directon of the car'swheels. Toyota received 12 complaints in Japan, but said it knew ofno accidents caused by the problem. The company has sold about7,000 Lexus "LS" sedans outside of Japan, including the 3,800 inthe U.S., 150 in Europe and 800 in China, with others sold in areassuch as the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australia.

After being hit with a record $16.4 million fine in the U.S. andfacing strong government criticism both at home and abroad for slowresponses to safety problems, Toyota Motor Corp. is working toreact more quickly. The company on Tuesday paid the fine in theU.S., where it still faces hundreds of state and federal lawsuits.

The latest issue involves a computerized system that overseeshow the steering wheel controls the tires. The steering systemcomes standard in Japanese models, but is optional in some otherregions. It varies the amount that the steering wheel turns thetires on a car, allowing drivers to turn the wheel less at lowspeeds when attempting to navigate or park in tight spots andproviding finer control at high speeds.

The system can take "a few seconds" to return the steering tonormal after it has been adjusted, which led to complaints fromdrivers, said Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco.

He said Toyota is preparing to conduct a recall in Japan soon,but wasn't sure of the exact timing. The U.S. recall is expectedFriday.

The company is looking to demonstrate it can respond rapidly toproblems in its cars. Toyota is currently facing a newinvestigation by authorities in the U.S. because it waited a yearto recall vehicles there after a similar recall in Japan, despitedozens of reports of problems from American drivers.

Toyota quickly recalled about 10,000 Lexus SUVs in April in theU.S. after Consumer Reports magazine put a "Don't Buy"recommendation on them for failing an emergency handling test. Themagazine lifted the warning after the recall, which applied toabout 34,000 vehicles worldwide.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide forsafety defects affecting some of its best-selling models. The U.S.Transportation Department is reviewing thousands of Toyotadocuments and could issue new penalties for the company's handlingof other safety recalls.

The recalls have prompted the first major review of U.S. autosafety laws in Congress since tire recalls by Bridgestone/FirestoneInc. in 2000.

Toyota's top U.S. sales executive, Jim Lentz, will testify infront of Congress Thursday that the automaker believes faultyelectronics are not to blame for unintended accelerations in itsvehicles that led to massive recalls.

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